Habit: deciduous shrub that can form an extensive thicket with slender upright branches growing to 25 ft (8 m) tall. The bark is dark brown and smooth marked with orange-red horizontal raised lines (lenticels). The green leaves are oval shaped with a rounded end and finely toothed margins. The fragrant flowers have 5 white, occasionally pink petals, with long stamen, blooming in April and May, in clusters of 5-12. The fruit is small and red to black. Leaves turn yellow in the fall.
Ecology: found in the Western States from the coast inland to Western Montana on moist steep, rocky slopes, open forests, and near streams at low to mid elevations.
Growing Conditions: full sun or partial shade and moist to semi dry soil, preferring open sandy or gravelly sites. Bittercherry does not tolerate shade competition from other trees.
Fruit is intensely bitter; the seeds contain hydrocyanic acid and should not be consumed. Bittercherry is valuable for elk, deer and bear and small mammals, rodents, and various birds eat the fruits. Excellent to use when battling stream bank erosion.