Western Sand Cherry
Herb: Western Sand Cherry
Latin name: Prunus besseyi
Synonyms: Prunus pumila besseyi
Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)
Medicinal use of Western Sand Cherry:Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Sandy hills, open plains, rocky slopes or shores.
Edible parts of Western Sand Cherry:Fruit - raw or cooked. A sweetish flavour, the fruit can also be dried for later use. It makes a rather astringent but tasty jelly.The fruit is a reasonable size, up to 18mm in diameter, and contains one large seed. Seed - raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity.
Other uses of the herb:A green dye can be obtained from the leaves. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit. The plant can be used as a rootstock for plums. It produces mostly dwarf trees that are poorly anchored. Prone to severe suckering. Compatible with most prunes, it is incompatible with damsons and Victoria plums. Resistant to "Crown Gall". Trees on this rootstock are productive and very cold hardy. Cuttings are often easy to root but seedlings vary widely.
Propagation of Western Sand Cherry:Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame. Division of suckers in the dormant season. They can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. Layering in spring.
Cultivation of the herb:Sandy hills, open plains, rocky slopes or shores.
Known hazards of Prunus besseyi:Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.