Dear lucky one,

this is your tree!

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Information about your tree:

Species: Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas),
Location: Ferme du Plessis, 28190 Pontgouin, France,
Purpose: Afforestation for an eco-village,
Date of plantation: January 2019,
Status: Planted and in good health.

Description of your tree:

Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas L.) is a deciduous small tree growing 2-6 m tall, exceptionally reaching 8-9 m. The crown is regular, bushy, hemispherical, and may expand more horizontally up to 5 m. The trunk is straight, sometimes with sinuous or multiple stems, the branches ends often drooping. The bark is grey-brownish, peeling off in scaly flakes like crocodile skin. The young shoots are hairy grey-greenish, becoming hairless later. The leaves are opposite with a short stalk, oval, 3-5 cm wide and 6-8 cm long, with an entire margin that is shortly acuminate and supplied with visible parallel veins. They turn to mahogany red in autumn. The flowers are small, 5-10 mm in diameter, hermaphrodite, with four yellow petals and on long peduncles, clustered in groups of 10-25 together in umbels. They bloom in late winter before the leaves sprout. The fruit is a fleshy, bright red cherry-like drupe, which ripens in mid-late summer. It is olive-shaped, 12-15 mm long, with a smooth and shiny rind, and containing two seeds. The fruit is edible when it falls and is dispersed by animals.

Generally, cornelian cherry occurs in warm and dry sites, from sea level up to 1500 m in the Alps (Switzerland) and in the Caucasus. It is a light-demanding and slow-growing species, which thrives in open areas or in semi-shade vegetation, such as forest hedges, steppe shrubs, and light woodlands. It prefers moist, alkaline soils rich in nutrients, although it is principally found in warm and dry conditions. The cornelian cherry has a high plasticity, growing in all kinds of soils, from light sandy to heavy clay, with a pH ranging from slightly acid to very alkaline. Wind and frost are also well tolerated, and it can survive up to -30 °C, while it is sensitive to salt and marine exposures. It also a long-living tree, surviving up to 300 years. Cornelian cherry is found in the thermophilous mixed deciduous broadleaved forests, dominated by oaks (Quercus pubescens, Q. cerris, Q. frainetto, Q. ilex), hornbeams (Carpinus betulus, Carpinus orientalis) and manna ash (Fraxinus ornus). It can also be found in combinations with other sub-Mediterranean shrubs; e.g. wayfarer (Viburnum lantana), wild privet (Ligustrum vulgare), common dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), European barberry (Berberis vulgaris), etc.

The wood of cornelian cherry has been valued over the centuries for its hardiness, durability and flexibility. In ancient Greece, the wood of cornel was considered one of the most valuable precious woods, mentioned also in the writings by Homer. In the Virgil’s Aeneid the cornelian is cited as wood used for the Trojan horse. Ptolemy attested the use of this wood for the Macedonian cavalry spears. During the Roman period it was favoured to make the shafts of javelins. Pliny wrote that cornelian cherry wood was used for making “spokes of wheels, or else for making wedges for splitting wood, and pins or bolts, which have all the hardness of those of iron”. Records of its use continued for centuries, prized for weapon construction, such as bows, darts, pikes, etc., and other tools. More recently this wood has been used for the manufacture of wheel spokes, ladder rungs, and tool handles. The wood has reddish sapwood and dark brown heartwood, of a fine texture and difficult to split. Together with common box (Buxus sempervirens) and strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), this species is among the toughest and most durable European woods with the highest specific gravity. The fruits are edible and have a similar taste to sour cherries. The cornelian cherry is a species of economic interest for fruit production. Plants are cultivated in orchards in many countries of eastern Europe, Caucasus and central Asia, as its sweet-acid fruits are very valuable for fresh consumption and for processing to produce syrups, juices, jams and other traditional products.

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