Herb: Cambridge Cherry


Latin name: Prunus pseudocerasus


Synonyms: Cerasus pseudocerasus, Prunus cantabrigensis, Prunus pauciflora


Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)



Medicinal use of Cambridge 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:



Plant:
Deciduous
Shrub

Height:
3.5 m
(11 feet)

Flovering:
March

Habitat of the herb:

Not known in a truly wild situation, though it is often found on sunny mountain slopes and the sides of ravines, usually as a result of cultivation, at elevations of 300 - 600 metres in China.

Edible parts of Cambridge Cherry:

Fruit - raw or cooked and used in preserves etc. Cherry-like, it is large and sweet. The fruit is about 15mm in diameter and contains one large seed. The fruit contains about 1% protein, 0.8% fat, 16.5% carbohydrate, 0.6% ash. The flowers are salted and used as a tea. 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.

Propagation of Cambridge 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. Layering in spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not known in a truly wild situation, though it is often found on sunny mountain slopes and the sides of ravines, usually as a result of cultivation, at elevations of 300 - 600 metres in China.

Known hazards of Prunus pseudocerasus:

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.