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The Pros and Cons of Black Cherry and Cherry Laurel

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Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Both Prunus serotina, black cherry, and Prunus caroliniana, cherry laurel, contain prussic acid, cyanide, and the wilted leaves especially are harmful to horses and cattle. If you crush the leaves of black cherry, you can really smell that acrid compound. On the other hand, if you rub cherry laurel glossy evergreen leaves together between your hands, they smell just like maraschino cherries. Cherry laurels are easy to grow in almost any circumstances with moderate winter temperatures, they even have some salt tolerance, but are not well adapted to extreme drought or high temperatures. They were planted extensively from Dallas into west Texas, a harsh environment, and an extended drought killed almost all of them. We have some pretty tough summers in South Carolina, but nothing like that part of the world, where unirrigated shade trees are few and far between. 

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.