North Star Cherry
North Star Cherry is a delightful tart cherry that was introduced by the University of Minnesota in 1950. It is extremely hardy and self-pollinating. This cherry is a genetic dwarf that usually only grows 6’-10’ tall. Its short height makes it a favored cultivar to the home gardener as it is easy to reach the fruit for harvesting.
One of the parents of North Star is English Morello (noted for its extremely dark fruit). This trait was passed on to North Star. While many other tart cherry cultivars have a dark skin, the actual flesh of their fruit is light pink or yellow, which results in a poorly colored pie. The fruit of North Star is extremely dark throughout resulting in an excellent deep dark red pie when baked.
North Star cherry ripens around July 4th in S.E. Wisconsin. Since birds love to eat cherries, the tree will need to be covered with netting as soon as the ripening fruit shows the slightest amount of red color. The tree is very precocious & usually will start bearing fruit the 2nd season from planting.
North Star cherry is not just desirable for its fruit! It is a very ornamental tree with dark bark, slightly glossy leaf, deep red fruit & white flowers. While many people plant crabapples for their ornamental value, I find it odd that nobody plants North Star cherry for its ornamental value as well. It stays small yet has all the desired attributes for a small ornamental tree. While many crabapples produce fruit that can be messy, North Star has no problem with fruit litter, as the birds will strip the tree clean if it is not netted to protect the fruit!
Often people ask us what plants they can grow in their yards for the birds. North Star is always overlooked yet the ripening fruit will attract every bird that eats fruit for miles around! If you are looking for a small ornamental tree or want to attract birds don’t forget to consider North Star.
My experience with this cherry goes back a long time. I planted my first North Star while in high school. I have fond memories of all the cherry pies it produced! My cherry tree only grew 5.5’ tall! Sadly the drought of 1988 killed my tree.
Last spring I planted another North Star cherry. It grew very well for the first season. I was surprised to find about 35 fruit buds set on my tree this past fall! I look forward to my first crop this July from my little tree.
If you are looking for an excellent tart cherry for fruit production or a small ornamental tree for a small space or even just a plant to attract birds then give North Star some room in your yard!
Paul Schwabe is a salesman in our Contractor Sales division. He holds a degree in horticulture and will be writing about some of his favorite and underused plants.