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Growing Capulin Cherry: Prunus salicifolia

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A member of the Rose family, related to plums, peaches, apricots and sweet cherries.

Form: Semi-deciduous tree with umbrella shape.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Leaf retention: Evergreen except frost-deciduous.
Growth rate: Rapid.
Mature Size: 30' high and 15' wide.
Flowers: Five white petals, conspicuous tuft of stamens, pendulent clusters.
Bloom: Late winter to early spring. Under favorable conditions, the tree may have a second bloom late summer.
Self-fruitful: Yes.
Years before fruiting: 3 from seed.
Fruit: Round, 1/2" to 3/4" in diameter, deep glossy maroon to dark purple, thin, tender skin. Pale green, firm, juicy, sweet flesh, with astringency varying by cultivar from none to overmuch, large pit. The fruit is bad tasting until very ripe. Frequent and extensive watering is said to improve flavor.
Months for fruit to ripen: 3-5.
Storage after harvest: Will refrigerate 4-6 weeks in an uncovered container.
Leaves: Aromatic, slender, serrated edges, deep glossy green above, pale grayish-green beneath. New leaves can be reddish.
Stems: No thorns.
Roots: Often grafted rootstock. Normal roots are shallow.
Cultivars of Note: Those producing larger quantities of good tasting fruit include 'Ecuadorian', 'Fausto', and 'Huachi Grande'.
Wildlife: Attracts bees, birds, and mammals.
Toxic / Danger: All parts poisonous except ripe fruit.
Origin: Mexico.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 8b-10. Withstands 19°F with only small branch damage.
Chill hours: None, unusual for a Prunus species.
Heat tolerant: Extra water above 90°F.
Sun: Full sun.
Drought tolerant: No.
Water after becoming established: Daily to weekly when fruiting. Heavy watering improves flavor.
Soil: Well drained, low organic content, pH 5.6-6.5 (acidic to slightly acidic), somewhat tolerant of other well-drained soils, but not salt tolerant.
Fertilize: Apply compost with a limited amount of composted manure late winter.
Mulch: With compost to minimize water evaporation and heat stress.
Planting: Not recommended for containers. Stake carefully to prevent damage from strong winds.
First Year Care: Protect from frost.
Prune: Can be pruned into a fruiting hedge. Remove damaged branches mid to late winter.
Litter: Low except unharvested fruit and seasonal changeover of leaves.
Propagation: Hardwood cuttings and seed (does not breed true to parent and quality varies).
Pests: Less prone to disease than other stone fruit trees, including sweet cherry.
Uses: Ornamental, edible fruit.

Former botanical name is Prunus serotina v. salicifolia. This plant is popular where it grows naturally in Mexico and South America between 4000 and 9000 feet in elevation.

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Prunus salicifolia leaves and fruit

Prunus salicifolia fruit

Prunus salicifolia trunk and bark

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