Prunus padus, known as bird cherry, hackberry, hagberry, or Mayday tree, is a flowering plant in the rose family Rosaceae. It is a species of cherry, a deciduous small tree or large shrub up to 16 m tall. It is the type species of the subgenus Padus, which have flowers in racemes. It is native to northern Europe and northern Asia
|Bird cherry flowers|
Prunus padus is native to northern Europe and spans central latitudes of Asia, including Japan. Its distribution includes the British Isles, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Ukraine, France, Spain, Portugal, Northern Italy, Austria, and the Balkans. The Mayday tree is abundant as an introduced species in Anchorage, Alaska, having been planted in great numbers by landscapers and homeowners.
There are two varieties:
- European bird cherry Prunus padus var. padus, Europe and western Asia.
- Asian bird cherry Prunus padus var. commutata, eastern Asia.
Bird-cherry ermine moth (Yponomeuta evonymella) uses bird-cherry as its host plant, and the larvae can eat single trees leafless.
The fruit of this tree is seldom used in western Europe, but, once upon a time, it may possibly have been commonly eaten farther east. According to Herodotus writing some 2,500 years ago, a strange race of men and women, all bald from birth, who live in what may possibly be the foothills of the Urals, pick the bean-sized fruits of a tree called 'pontic' to make a black juice from, and from the leftover lees of the fruit make a cake-like dish, this juice and cakes being the main sustenance of the bald peoples. According to A.D. Godley, a translator of the works of Herodotus published in the early 1920s, it is said that the Cossacks make a similar juice from Prunus padus, and call this juice a similar name as the bald men called their juice according to Scythian traders according to Herodotus.
It was used medicinally during the Middle Ages.[clarification needed]
The variety commutata is sold as an ornamental tree in North America under the common name Mayday. It is valued for its hardiness and spring display of fragrant, white flowers. The common name Mayday tree is not related to the distress signal mayday as the name for the tree was in use prior to the adoption of mayday as an international distress signal.
In Siberia the fruit of the tree is used for culinary purposes. The dried berries are ground and turned into flour of varying degree of fineness that serves as an ingredient in the bird cherry cake. The flour is brown and so is the cake, even though there is no chocolate in it. The flour and the cake can be purchased at stores and bakeries. Fresh berries can be run through the grinder and turned into marmalade.
- Taphrina padi - A Pocket Plum gall that occurs on Bird Cherry
- Rehder, A. 1940, reprinted 1977. Manual of cultivated trees and shrubs hardy in North America exclusive of the subtropical and warmer temperate regions. Macmillan publishing Co., Inc, New York.
- "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved January 27, 2014.
- Anderberg, Arne. "Den virtuella floran:Prunus padus". Naturhistoriska riksmuseet. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
- "Bird cherry (Prunus padus)". Science & Plants for Schools (U.K.).
- N.D.Sargison; D.S.Williamson; J.R.Duncan; R.W.McCance (1996). "Prunus Padus (bird cherry) poisoning in cattle". Veterinary Record. 138: 188. doi:10.1136/vr.138.8.188.
…stems, leaves and fruits of P. padus contain the glycosides prulaurasin and amygdalin…CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
- "Herodotus, IV.23". Loeb Classical Library at LacusCurtius.
- The London Journal: and Weekly Record of Literature, Science, and Art, Volume 32, page 475
- Walter Gregor, "Some Folklore of Trees, Animals, and River-fishing from the N.E. of Scotland" The Folk-Lore Journal. Volume 7, 1889. p. 41.