Having Never Owned a Cherry Tree...

Having never owned a cherry tree before, and having not had one growing up (even though we had plums, peaches, apples, pears, persimmons, we never had a cherry) I had no idea they had nectar producing glands on their leaves! 

I thought something was wrong with Stella (it's a dwarf Stella, so what else would it be called?).  I thought the leaves were growing some awful cherry warts!

Well, if you didn't know better, don't they look bad?


Thank goodness for Internet research!  Unfortunately, my first hit was "Raised Red Spots on Cherry Tree Leaves," telling me it was a "fungal disease commonly known as cherry leaf spot."  That was it, my cherry was going to die. I was giving up on fruit trees, too much trouble.  Fortunately, I kept looking for more results.  (cherry leaf spot is spots on the leaves themselves)

Turns out those weird red growths are "extrafloral nectaries."

What? 

Cherry tree leaf stalks often have two or more of these nectar glands.  These glands secrete sweet nectar, which draw insects.  Wait!  Aren't insects bad?  If you read my blog post I is for Insects, you will remember that some are bad, some are good, and even the bad have their good sides.  Here, if an aphid munches on the tender spring cherry leaf, the ants drawn to the nectar will hopefully munch on the aphid!  That's what the cherry tree hopes, as does the gardener.  The nectar glades only secrete a small amount, so the ants have to move around the tree looking for more.  In doing so, they are scouting for enemies.  If they encounter a caterpillar, they may attack it as an invader to "their" tree and "their" food resources. 



























In studies where scientists keep ants away, the trees are quickly damaged.  So, now I know if I see ants on my cherry tree to leave them alone!  I read one story online about a man who coated the trunk of his tree with Vaseline to keep the ants away.  In the comments he was going to hurry out and wipe it off!

They really do look like red warts...

Comments

  1. Fascinating! I am ever in awe of nature. Thank you for sharing this, and the comment about oranges in Spain! If I ever go there, I'm diving head first into an orange cart. ~grin~ Happy Gardening!

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  2. I didn't know that and I've looked at a lot of cherry trees, but I've never had one in my yard, so I guess I never looked that close!

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    1. At first, I thought they were okay, since they seemed symmetrical. But, then they weren't! They aren't all in the same location on the stems. Weird! I am loving looking at things close-up! iPhones have great cameras.

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  3. How crazy! That's not something I knew either. I definitely would have thought my baby was dying. lol Glad it was nothing!

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  4. Wow. Thanks for clarifying. I have a dwarf cherry tree as well, (my first one) and I see these tiny red spots which at first I thought were what was going to become cherries! But a bit of googling online keeps coming up with fungal disease. Wasnt satisfoed, so kept looking, now I'm glad I came across your site!

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    1. I was surprised too! Weird adaptation. I hope your tree does well. Mine died. It got its new leaf and flower buds, then they dried out and the tree was dead. No indication of disease, and the Master Gardeners' were no help, neither was the Internet this time!
      Glad I could help!

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  5. Very glad I saw this article! I really thought I'd killed my cherry tree already :O

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