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Cherries occupy the Cerasus subgenus within Prunus, being fairly distinct from plums, apricots, peaches, and almonds. They are members of the Rosaceae family, subfamily Prunoideae. Prunus avium L. is the Sweet Cherry, and Prunus cerasus L. the Sour Cherry.
As a group, cherries are relatively diverse and broadly distributed around the world, being found in Asia, Europe, and North America. In addition to the main species above, P. fruticosa (ground cherry) and P. pseudocerasus (Chinese cherry) are minor fruit species in the former USSR and China. While sweet cherries are virtually all P. avium, the term sour cherry may include hybrids between P. avium and P. cerasus (referred to as "Duke cherries"), ground cherry, and hybrids of ground cherry with P. cerasus.
Sweet cherry cultivars:
Many sweet cherries were introduced from Europe, although several breeding programs worldwide have produced cultivars of regional importance. When Romans dispersed cherries throughout Europe, cultivars of local importance were selected; contemporary sweet cherries are genetically very similar to these initial selections.
Cultivars are sometimes categorized into "heart" (syn. Guigne in French, Gean in England) and "Bigarreau" groups; the former are heart-shaped, softer fruits, while the latter are round, firm, crisp fruits. 'Bing', 'Napoleon' (syn. 'Royal Ann'), and 'Lambert' are the most important cultivars in North America. 'Ranier' is rapidly increasing in importance, having unique light-red blush over yellowish skin color; prices received by growers have been well above red-colored cultivars through the mid 1990's.
All commercial cultivars exhibit gametophytic incompatibility with themselves and several others, hence cross-pollination and choice of pollinizer are critical.
Sour cherry cultivars:
Sour cherries are also divided into 2 groups:
1) Amarelles - Upright, vigorous trees; pale colored fruit, or reddish, with light-colored or clear juice, low acid [Montmorency, Kentish, Early Richmond], and
2) Morellos - Small, bushy, compact trees; dark red fruit, more spherical, higher acid, red colored juice [Stockton, Vladmir, North Star]. 'Montmorency' is by far the main tart cherry, accounting for 95% of all production. 'Early Richmond' and 'English Morello' are two other tart cultivars of importance.
Origin, history of cultivation - next >
from "Mark's Fruit Crops"
Mark Rieger, Professor of Horticulture, University of Georgia
used with permission
Mark Rieger is a Professor of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, and has been involved in graduate and undergraduate teaching for over 14 years. Mark also gives the annual Master Gardener training sessions in fruit culture and tree pruning at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, and conducts research on fruit crop physiology and culture. Mark has traveled throughout North America, Europe, New Zealand, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean compiling information and photographing the world’s fruit crops.