native cherry forest


Short guide to planting and use

General Description

Native cherry (Prunus avium) grows in a temperate climate with 800-1200 mm precipitation on a good forest soil. Native cherry is an interesting commercial species because it can produce high quality veneer and sawn wood. Intensive management is necessary to produce such valuable logs. The lower trunk must be five - six m, branch- free, with a minimum diameter of 45 cm. Pruning is important even though native cherry is susceptible to wound infections. Living branches must therefore be pruned before heartwood has formed. The branches should be younger than three years old, which means thinner than three cm. Because the chance of root rot increases with age, short-term rotations are recommended. Plantations should also not be larger than two hectares in order to minimize the chance of disease. Tree protection against wildlife damage is recommended.

Silvicultural models

Data has been gathered from existing projects in The Netherlands, France and Germany and combined with a literature study, to form three models. These silvicultural models have been developed for production purposes under Western European forest conditions and can be used as a basis for a management plan. The following models give an overview of how the desired wood quality can be reached under different management systems.

Plantation model

*  Use top quality plant material between 150 - 250 cm;

*   Plant a density between 300 - 600 trees/ha;

*  Remove weeds during the first years;

*  Prune every branch that is thicker than two cm every two years, from four years old onward, until the trunk is five - six m high;

*   Thin every four years for an optimal crown and diameter development once the stand is 15 - 20 years old.

*  Harvest the stand once the trees have reached the minimum diameter and a density of 80 - 130 trees/ha. The diameter can be reached within 50 - 60 years.

Multiple purpose forest model

The goal of this forest model is to create, more or less, a natural forest environment, in which there is a possibility to mix with other species such as Fraxinus sp., Acer sp., Alnus sp., Quercus rubra, and Larix sp. They can be planted in small groups.

* Use plant material between 80 - 100 cm;

* Plant a density between 4000 - 5000 trees/ha;

* Remove weeds during the first years;

* Thin after 7, 12 and 16 years so that undesirable trees are removed

* Select 250 - 350 future trees after 20 years;

* Prune future trees up to five - six metres to give a branch free trunk;

* Thin every four - five years in order to encourage an optimal crown and diameter development

* Harvest when the minimum diameter is reached, normally after 60 - 75 years at a stand density of 80 - 130 trees/ha.

Native cherry: 8 years old production forest in North France

Conversion forest model

A new image can be created in an old forest by planting native cherry in groups with a minimum radius of 50 m. This can increase the ecological, recreational and landscape value of the forest. Although the silvicultural treatment is the same as the mutiple purpose forest, a longer rotation of 70 - 80 years is necessary because of the competition from the surrounding trees. Oak forests (50 - 60 years old) are especially suitable for an understorey of cherry as the native cherry can help prevent epidormic branches on the oak and is still capable of producing quality wood.

Native cherry bar stool and side tabel

Properties Native Cherry European Oak
Density 600 kg/m3 (12% moisture) 724 kg/m3 (12% moisture)
Durability (heartwood) class III (moderate durable) class II (durable)
Shrinkage (wet - 12%) radial 3.5%; tangential 6.5% radial 2.7%; tangential 6.5%
Bending strength 105 N/mm 95 N/mm2
Modulus of elasticity 10,900 N/mm2 9,800 N/mm2
Shear strength 14.5 N/mm2 11.5 N/mm2
Hardness 5,780 N 6,280 N

Comparing caracteristics

Native cherry cupboard

Wood characteristics

The colour of the heartwood can vary between yellow-brown and red-brown depending on the soil conditions. Sometimes green stripes may appear on the wood. Cherry wood has many small rays which give it a shiny radial surface. The grain is usually parallel to the axis of the stem. Drying can take place at a moderate speed although weights should be used to help prevent warping. Cherry is easy to work with: nailing, glueing, bending and finishing do not present any problems. The wood properties of native cherry are compared with the properties of European oak (table) which is also a valuable tree species.


Cherry is a decorative wood and is often used for furniture, both in massive form and as veneer. Other uses include carvings, lamps, musical instruments, parquet floors and indoor panels.

Native cherry roundwood   

Supply and demand in The Netherlands

Most of the native cherry in the Netherlands comes from orchards and lanes and is offered only in small quantities. The wood is well valued and has its own identity in the Dutch market. Competition from American cherry is evident especially when larger quantities are needed. The demand for cherry wood mainly depends on trends in the furniture market. At the moment the trend is towards wood species which are light in colour, but cherry wood is also enjoying growing interest.

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