A parent of the Bing Cherry, the Black Republican cherry tree (Prunus avium ‘Black Republican”) is a hardy tree that is one of the best pollinators for other Sweet Cherry varieties. A very important tree to the commercial food industry, Black Republican cherries are widely used to flavor yogurts and other products.
These trees work beautifully at home too! In this post, we’ll be looking at the Black Republican cherry tree, its history, and how to care for this delicious addition to your lawn.
History of the Black Republican Cherry Tree
Growing this tree means growing a piece of history. The Black Republican cherry tree celebrates the work of Seth Lewelling, a nurseryman with strong abolitionist beliefs who helped runaway slaves escape to the north. Lewelling first grew the tree in Oregon in 1860 after bringing a wagon full of fruit trees to the Pacific Northwest. As a reflection of his belief in equality, he named the variety the Black Republican.
Black Republican Fruit Tree / Fruit Characteristics
Black Republican cherry trees are a heat tolerant and cold hardy variety of cherry trees. They sprout white flowers in the spring and keep their green foliage all throughout the summer months. Their leaves gradually turn yellow as autumn sets in. This mid-season tree is also one of the best pollinators for other Sweet Cherry trees out there.
Black Republican cherry trees typically grow to a height of 18 to 20 feet on average, with an average spread of 15 to 18 feet across. They thrive in full sun and well-drained soil.
The fruit it produces is in the medium range and considered small by most commercial standards. It has an intense flavor that remains even when cooked, a deep purple color, and a firm texture. Its dark juice will stain fingers and clothes.
The Black Republican cherry tree does best in hardiness zones 5 through 9, only really faltering where the winters are particularly brutal.
For more on planting zones and the best places to grow this tree, see our post on How To Grow The Black Republican Cherry Tree.
Size and Spacing
The Black Republican cherry tree grows to a mature height of between 18 and 20 feet with a spread of 15 to 18 feet. This makes it perfect for ornamental spaces on lawns and in gardens.
Black Republican cherry trees are not self-fruitful, but require pollination from another tree. They cross-pollinate well with a wide variety of Sweet Cherry trees such as Van, Stella, Bing, Rainier, and Napoleon.
Black Republican cherry trees need to be planted at a site that gets at least 6 hours of full sun in order to thrive. Morning sunlight is generally best, as it quickly dries the leaves of any moisture they’ve collected overnight.
Black Republican cherry trees require 12 to 15 gallons of water per week from May through September.
As with all trees, pruning away dead or diseased branches is a must. Pruning is also recommended to help the tree receive proper airflow and avoid diseases. It can also be done cosmetically to help control the shape of the tree.
For more on pruning this specific variety of trees, check out our post on Pruning The Black Republican Cherry Tree.
Diseases and Care
Rot, spot, and knot diseases are common in cherry trees of all types. Crown and root rot diseases are the result of an organism that is present in most soil types. Trees can also be susceptible to powdery mildew, blight, and cankers of the trunk.
For information on the diseases that are common to this type of tree, see our post on Black Republican Cherry Tree Diseases and Care.
Common Uses For Black Republican Cherries
Taste: Black Republican cherries have a rich and intensely sweet black cherry flavor which has been compared to herbs, almonds, and rose. It has shiny, purple-black skin and deep burgundy flesh, the juice of which will stain fingers and clothes.
Cooking: Black Republican cherries’ strong flavor and deep color make them exceptionally well-suited to cooked applications. It imparts a deep magenta color and strong cherry flavor to cakes, yogurt, ice cream, and pies.
Eating Raw: Black Republican cherries can be eaten straight off of the branch and have a strong flavor that many say is reminiscent of herbs, almonds, and rose. This flavor remains throughout the cooking process as well.
Canning / Freezing / Drying: Due to their particular harvest window, Black Republican cherries are not always easy to find. Luckily, this variety takes well to preserving in cans or freezers, and its high sugar content makes it ideal for drying.
Health Benefits of Black Republican Cherries
Black Republican cherries contain a potent kind of antioxidant that is currently being researched for the reduction of pain and inflammation. The deeply pigmented fruit is also a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as iron and calcium.
For more on the health benefits of this particular cherry variety, see our post on The Health Benefits of Black Republican cherries.
Where to Buy a Black Republican Cherry Tree?
If you’re looking for a Black Republican cherry tree, Nature Hills Nursery has you covered. They also have various other varieties of cherry trees, so you can find the one that’s perfect for your lawn.
Where to Buy Black Republican Cherries?
Being a darling of the commercial food industry, you can find Black Republican cherries used to flavor all kinds of products, from pies to yogurts.
You can also occasionally find Black Republican cherries at your local farmer’s market, but most often the surest way to find Black Republican cherries is to grow them yourself.
Black Republican Cherry Facts / FAQ
When was the Black Republican cherry tree first introduced?
The first tree of the variety was planted in 1860.
Where was the first Black Republican cherry tree grown?
The first Black Republican cherry tree was grown in Oregon.
What do Black Republican cherries taste like?
When under-ripe, the fruit can lean a bit tart or bitter, but when fully ripe, the flavor is sweet and multi-layered, hitting notes of almond and rose. This rich flavor remains even after cooking and preserving.
Are Black Republican cherry trees self-fruitful?
No. Like many sweet cherry trees, Black Republican cherry trees are not self-fruitful and require pollination from another tree. Black Republican cherry trees are also considered one of the best pollinators for other varieties of sweet cherry.
Can you find Black Republican cherries at a farmer’s market?
Occasionally. However, Black Republican cherry trees yield fruit that is considered small by most commercial standards, so your best option for tasting this amazing fruit fresh off the tree is to grow it yourself.
Learn more about more fruit trees, like the Early Richmond Cherry Tree Here.
Wrapping up The Black Republican Cherry Tree
The Black Republican cherry tree is a hardy and high-producing tree, especially when paired with other Sweet Cherry varieties for cross-pollination. They do best in growing zones 5 through 9 and thrive when given at least 6 hours of full sun a day.
Early morning sunlight is best as it helps to dry off the leaves after they’ve been collecting moisture all night. Black Republican cherry trees do best in well-drained soil and require consistent watering in order to stay healthy.
It’s a good idea to choose a highly visible spot on your lawn to adorn it, especially to show off its snowy white flowers in the springtime. The tree will keep its green leaves all throughout the summer months, gradually turning yellow as autumn approaches. The tree produces heavy, small to medium-sized dark purple fruit which is known for its heavy, rich, black cherry taste.
The fruit is considered small by most commercial measuring, but the Black Republican cherry tree is also a favorite of the commercial food industry due to the strong taste of its fruit. The taste of Black Republican cherries has been compared to herbs, almonds, and rose. It still lingers even after cooking, freezing, and drying, which accounts for some of the variety’s popularity with cooks.
Despite its history and popularity for flavoring commercial foods, the Black Republican cherry tree is a rare variety today, with only about 200 acres of production. It was even added to the Ark of Taste, which aims to preserve endangered heritage food like these heirloom cherries,
Add this attractive and delicious historical tree to your lawn today!