Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Master Gardener Classes, Black Cherry and Cherry Laurel


MG Class Picture (left to right): Keith Hawkins, MG Coordinator) honored recent MG graduates, Sandy Milliner, Tommie Willet & LaDonna Wampler. Photo: Bob Hines, Master Gardener.

Master Gardener Classes

The Louisiana Master Gardener (LMG) program is one of the signature programs of the LSU AgCenter. Master Gardeners (MGs) are AgCenter Volunteers who receive horticultural training in weeds, insects, plant diseases, turf, vegetables, ornamentals, and other related topics, and they help other gardeners with their plant and landscape issues.

The AgCenter recently had virtual MGs classes, and one class graduated eleven people. Most MG students were from central Louisiana, but a few were in more distant parishes like Ascension, Ouachita, and Union. The graduates include:

  • Yvette Brunson Ascension Parish
  • Carla Gremillion Rapides Parish
  • Kevin Kessler Grant Parish
  • Teenie LaBorde Avoyelles Parish
  • Lisa McCann LaSalle Parish
  • Sheila McCormick Ouachita Parish
  • Sandy Milliner Grant Parish
  • Tommy Phillips Union Parish
  • Brady Stewart Grant Parish
  • LaDonna Wampler Grant Parish
  • Tommie Willet Grant Parish

The Master Gardeners of Beauregard Parish will start new Master Gardener online classes, and the first class is a free orientation and will cover the details of this class. The beginning date and time for this new class will be Thursday, January 7, 2021, 1 PM. To receive an invitation to this virtual class, send your request by email to or for information, call 337-463-7006.


Leaves and fruit of native black cherry. Photo: Barney Barger.

Black Cherry

Now let us get back on the regular path of RSFF by looking at some plants. Barney is becoming a regular contributor to RSFF by asking for the identity of trees. Here is a recent image he sent.

AHA noted the white spots on the bark of the stem. These spots are called lenticels which enables air exchange into the juvenile stem. The most diagnostic feature of this photo is the small fruit. The fruit and the lenticels are found on the native black cherry.

After learning that he has black cherry, Barney emailed back to AHA, “Cherry you say? Can you eat it?” AHA provided a definitive answer in this narrative, “Yes, here is a narrative from the USDA:

‘Uses: Black cherry wood is a rich reddish-brown color and is strong, hard, and close-grained – one of the most valued cabinet and furniture woods in North America. It is also used for paneling, interior trim, veneers, handles, crafts, toys, and scientific instruments. Black cherry is used for reclamation of surface mine spoil.

The leaves, twigs, bark, and seeds produce a cyanogenic glycoside. Most livestock poisoning apparently comes from eating wilted leaves, which contain more of the toxin than fresh leaves, but white-tailed deer browse seedlings and saplings without harm. The inner bark, where the glycoside is concentrated, was used historically in the Appalachians as a cough remedy, tonic, and sedative. The glycoside derivatives act by quelling spasms in the smooth muscles lining bronchioles. Very large amounts of black cherry pose the theoretical risk of causing cyanide poisoning.

The fruit has been used to flavor rum and brandy (“cherry bounce”). Pitted fruits are edible and are eaten raw and used in wine and jelly. Black cherry fruits are important food for numerous species of passerine (song) birds, game birds, and mammals, including the red fox, black bear, raccoon, opossum, squirrels, and rabbits.’” Please note that leaves are toxic to livestock.


Leaves and fruit of laurel cherry, a shrub related to black cherry. Photo: Bri Weldon, NCSU Cooperative Extension Service.

Cherry Laurel

John had a similar question to Barney’s regarding the identity of small tree with small fruit, “I discovered this short tree (shrub) approximately 8 feet tall growing by the edge of the road near my house. It has glossy, serrated leaves like that of a black cherry, but I know it is not that. I am curious to know what it is.”

John has a Carolina laurel cherry, a relative to the black cherry. The NC State Extension website reports this description of this plant, “Carolina Laurel Cherry is a small evergreen shrub to small tree that may easily grow to 35 feet tall. The fresh leaves of this plant have a maraschino cherry fragrance when crushed and glands on the lower surface of the leaves. This species is native to the southern United States. Full sun is preferred but it is tolerant of shade if the soil is moist and well-drained.

This plant is easy to transplant, can withstand heavy pruning, and is moderately salt tolerant. Established plants have good drought tolerance. Use as a hedge, as a foundation plant, and in small groups or mass planting. It can become weedy in disturbed areas on roadsides and along fencerows and will also put out root suckers and self-seed in the landscape.”

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337-463-7006 or Also, you can be on the “green thumbs” email list by emailing your request to the address above.

“Before you buy or use an insecticide product, first read the label, and strictly follow label recommendations. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

12/15/2020 5:11:50 PM
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