Where Do Cherry Trees Grow in the US? States, Species & FAQs
Cherries are delicious! They are perfect for dessert, drinks, and cakes. As for the trees, they’re hard and water-resistant, not to mention flexible. More importantly, these trees are gorgeous when in bloom! So, where can you find a cherry tree in America? Where do they grow? California, Washington, and Oregon are home to 84% of sweet cherries. As for sour cherries, they’re mainly found in Michigan, New York, Utah, and, again, Washington.
Then we’ve got commercial crops in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. It’s safe to say that you’ll see these beautiful trees in almost every corner of the country. Today, we’ll talk about the most common cherry species in America, the best places to witness cherry blossoms, production statistics, and more!
Are Cherry Trees Native to the US?
The short answer is yes, cherries are native to the States. However, this is only true for the pin, bitter, and black cherries. If we take Prunus cerasus, the sour cherry, its roots date back to Southwest Asia and Europe. The sweet cherry (Prunus avium) is, again, native to Europe, but also Anatolia, the British Isles, and other parts of the world.
With that said, both species are widely cultivated in the United States and Canada. As for the American cultivars, we’ve got Bing (the most popular one), Rainier, Ulster, and Sweetheart, to name a few. Besides, the US is one of the biggest producers of sweet and sour cherries (more on that in a moment).
Cherry Trees in the US: The Most Prominent States
As mentioned, Washington, California, and Oregon are the center of sweet cherry production. Michigan and Wisconsin are also known for their large cherry tree fields. Michigan is where most sour cherry varieties grow. The production scale over there is so large that Traverse City is called the Cherry Capital of the World. This is interesting: cherry production in the US started in the mid-1800s.
We have Mr. Peter Dougherty to thank for that. Back in 1852, he planted the very first cherry trees in Traverse City. When the trees grew tall and produced fruit, the other farmers followed Dougherty’s example. The unique climate of the city (mild winters and cool summers) made this possible. Utah, New York, and Washington are also big producers.
The Best Places to Visit
Summing up, Washington and Oregon are where you should go if sweet cherries are your favorites. And if you love sour cherries instead, mark Michigan and the entire Northwest on the map. Now let’s check out some of the best places to enjoy cherry blossoms across the States, including parks, gardens, and more:
You’ll also find picturesque cherry tree fields, parks, gardens, and scenic drives in Texas, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, and New Jersey.
When Do Cherries Bloom?
This greatly depends on the variety, of course, but most cherry trees that grow in the US bloom in mid-March or early April. On the West Coast (LA and San Francisco), you might be able to see the beautiful cherry flowers as early as February. At the same time, if you want to check out the famous Traverse City, you’ll probably have to wait for late May/early summer because Michigan isn’t a particularly warm state.
In any case, the blooming season for cherry flowers is very short. But that’s actually a part of their beauty. For example, in Japan, sakura, which means cherry blossom, is associated with the transience of life. Now, if you want to “follow” cherry trees as they bloom, you can start in the West and slowly move to the Northwest to witness every single species come to life.
Can you Grow Your Own Cherry Tree?
Yes, with the right knowledge, dedication, and patience you can grow a cherry tree in your garden. We do have to warn you that sweet cherries are a bit hard to grow and require lots of maintenance. On the bright side, sour cherries are significantly more resistant to rot, pests, diseases, and cold. Plus, they don’t need the soil to be perfect: even poor, unfertilized soil will do.
Also, make sure to pick a type/variety that grows in your area. For that, check the hardiness zone (cherries grow and thrive in zones 5–9, depending on the species). Next, find a spot in the garden that gets enough exposure to sunlight. Early spring or late fall are the perfect times for planting cherries. On average, cherry trees take 3–4 years to produce fruit; dwarf trees only need 2–3 years to bear fruit.
How Many Cherries Are Harvested in the US?
In 2020, the US produced 325K tons of sweet cherries; Washington did most of the heavy lifting (163K tons). A year later, that number jumped to 378K tons, despite the pandemic. As for sour cherries, Michigan is the obvious leader, accounting for up to 75% of the tart cherries produced in the country. So, does that make the States a big player in the market of cherries?
America is the 5th-largest producer, outpaced only by Chile, China, the EU, and Turkey. And if we look at the sour cherry production volumes, we’ll see that the US is the 6th-largest producer. This time around, Russia is the obvious leader, with Turkey, Ukraine, Poland, and Iran besting the States. So, yes, the United States is, indeed, one of the largest producers of cherries out there.
The Best Uses for Cherry Trees
First and foremost, cherries are appreciated for the fruit. Wild cherries have been around for thousands of years. They are incredibly tasty, very sweet, and nutritious. And then you’ve got cherry pies, milkshakes, and juice. Today, sweet and sour cultivars are leading the market. If you want to cook something, go with sour cherries; and if you’re a fan of eating raw fruit, sweet cherries are your best bet.
And let’s not forget about the timber! The lush reddish-brown wood of the cherry tree is valued by carpenters around the globe for its sturdy, rot-resistant, and reliable nature. Cherry wood is mostly used for making premium-quality cabinets and musical instruments. In The US and Canada, it’s also very common to use it for smoking various meats.
If you’re a big fan of cherry tree blossoms, we’re happy to say that each state has something to offer! While most of the species are not native to North America, there’s still a lot of variety throughout the US. Different parts of the country have different colors and flavors. The admirers of sweet cherries should visit Washington and California first.
In Michigan and Utah, you’ll get to enjoy the sour types. So, where do cherry trees grow in the US? They’re pretty much everywhere! They easily adapt to a wide range of climates and look absolutely stunning when in bloom. If you want, you can even grow a cherry tree in your own backyard!
Featured Image Credit: jingoba, Pixabay