Tree up to 15 m tall. Leaves ovate or oblong-elliptic, 5-12 cm by 3-4 cm, shortly acuminate, margins finely serrate, 2-5 small glands at apex of leaf stalk. Flowers 1-3 together, on stalks 1-2 cm long, unfolding with the young leaves; petals pink. Fruit ellipsoid, 1-1.3 cm by 0.5 cm, yellow and red.
A medium-sized tree, reported to stand a certain amount of shade, especially when young. Its altitudinal distribution indicates that certain provenances at least are frost-tolerant, but when planted on an exposed south-facing slope at 1900 m at Pakhribas 90 per cent of the plants had their tops killed, presumably by cold, though only six per cent were completely killed. Seedlings with the top damaged by cold will usually recover. Frost damage has also been recorded in nurseries. It is more tolerant of poor soil conditions than most species except pines, and has survived well on nearly all sites where it has been planted. It reproduces fairly freely from root suckers, and is said to coppice. The seeds are spread by birds.
It is found in most parts of Nepal between 1300 and 2400 m. Outside Nepal it extends from the Punjab in the west to China in the east.
The seed ripens between March (Pokhara) to May (many sites). The fruit is red when ripe and contains a single stone. About 1700 fruit weigh 1 kg, and there are 2500-3200 cleaned seeds kg-1. After collection, the pulp should be removed from the seed and the seed dried thoroughly in the sun for at least 2-3 days. Seed stored in cloth bags loses its viability rapidly, but in plastic bags under nursery conditions it can be stored for nine months without serious loss of viability; in fact in experiments reported by Napier and Robbins (1987) percentage germination increased from 74 per cent at the start of the experiment to 93 per cent, after three months; at 12 months it had fallen to 63 per cent and after 15 months it was nil. Seed stored in sealed glass jars in a refrigerator still gave over 90 per cent germination after 12 months, and 85 per cent after 15 months. Thus if seed has to be stored for longer than nine months refrigerated storage is preferable.
Before the seed is sown it should be soaked in water for 1-2 days. Below 1500 m seed sown immediately after collection in March or April should give plantable seedlings by the monsoon (seed sown in Chalnakhel (1350 m) in October produced plants over 30 cm high by July, despite top pruning). Above 1500 m seed should be sown in late August to early September, giving 10-11 months in the nursery. Plantable seedlings should be 20-30 cm tall, with a root-collar diameter of at least 2 mm, and well-lignified stems. If the seed is fresh, or is known to have a germination percentage of over sixty, it should be sown directly into standard polypots filled with a mixture of three parts soil to one of sand, at two seeds per pot. If the germination percentage is less than this the seed should be sown in beds, at the rate of 750 g m-2, and the seedlings pricked out into pots within 2-3 weeks after the start of germination, preferably after two primary leaves have developed above the cotyledons. Early growth of the seedlings is very rapid, so this pricking out must not be delayed. Shade is needed only for 3-4 days after pricking out, and in cloudy weather may be dispensed with.
Germination is usually fairly rapid, taking between 12 days and three weeks, but at Chalnakhel between six and 11 weeks has been recorded. The germination percentage is usually quite good. The number of plants raised from 1 kg of seeds in Nepal nurseries has ranged from 300 to 3000, the median figure being about 1200.
Seedlings from sowings in August-September lose their leaves in October-November, and are not damaged by winter frost. Growth after winter is very rapid, so that the seedlings tend to become tall and thin, with soft stems. They should therefore be spaced out with 5-10 cm between the rows in March (for sowings in August-September) or May (for spring sowings). Root pruning must also be done in spring, and continued as required. If the seedlings are over 30 cm tall in the pre-monsoon or early monsoon period they should be cut back to 15-20 cm two weeks before the expected planting date. The seedlings develop thin taproots, with some fibrous lateral roots.
Some successes have been reported from bare-root planting. Grunenfelder (1980) in the IHDP project in the Charikot-Jiri area recommended broadcasting the stones in nursery beds in May, and planting out the seedlings bare-root in July of the same year. Seedlings supplied to farmers, however, were first pricked out into plastic bags. Branney (1985) describes how bare-root plants were used at Jajarkot The seed was sown into beds in April, and the plants kept under shade until early June. By mid-July the seedlings averaged 5 cm tall, and there were about 400 m-2. These seedlings were transplanted directly into pits in the plantation, and six months after planting 98 per cent had survived. It should be noted that in this trial conditions were near optimum. The nursery was very near the planting site, and a good rainy spell followed planting. Wilson (1987) reported good results in Darchula, in the Far Western Development Region of Nepal, from bare-root plants 120-150 cm tall; they sometimes died back after planting but shot again from the base, leading her to suggest the possibility of using stumps. According to Troup (1921) propagation by cuttings is also possible.
Some trials have been made of the use of fertilizers on P. cerasoides. Prunus cerasoides appears to benefit by being planted under light shade of pines. In most cases survival and height growth has been better under light shade than in the open. Some trials have also been made on larger pit size.
Data are only available from plantations less than five years old, except an old record from the Nepal-Australia Forestry Project at Upper Nagarkot (2000 m) where, at the age of seven years survival was 92 per cent, of which 73 per cent were over 2 m high, and these averaged 2.2 cm in diameter (M.R. Joshi and Wyatt-Smith, 1982); and one from Parbat District, near Lumle, at an altitude of 1800 m, aged seven years, survival 86 per cent, and mean height 1.3 m (R.K. Shrestha and Gautam, 1991), which is poor.
In general survival in trials has been good, over 80 per cent, with a few exceptions. An average figure for mean height would be about 1 m at two years. Among the best height growths from unfertilized plantations in the open are 1.75 m at 2.4 years at Banduk, Myagdi District (1450 m) (R.B. Joshi, 1985); 1.6 m at 2.2 years on a poor site with northerly aspect at Nisikot, Dhading District (1400 m) (S. Rimal, 1992), and 2.8 m at four years at 1800 m in Parbat District (R.K. Shrestha and Gautam, 1991). Compared with many fodder species early height growth is quite good, but it apparently slows down later, as the tree does not grow to a great height.
It is a fodder tree, but of somewhat limited value. According to Panday (1982) it is used mainly as fodder for sheep and goats, not cattle; however in Solokhumbu although cattle find it unpalatable they will get used to it if no other fodder is available. It is said to cause urinary problems and reduce milk yields. The smaller branches are used as a substitute for hydrocyanic acid' (Department of Medicinal Plants, 1970), and poisoning of sheep by the hydrocyanic acid produced by P. cerasoides leaves has been recorded. The tannin content of the leaves rises from rather low levels in December to moderately high levels in March (Wood et al., 1992). The leaves contain 6.4 per cent crude protein (Panday, 1982); 10.4 percent (D. Bajracharya et al., 1985).
The old leaves fall between mid-October and mid-November, and the flush of new leaves follows soon after. The trees are lopped in June and July when the leaves are mature and have been washed by rain. According to Panday one tree will yield 80-120 kg of fresh fodder per year, but other sources give much lower values.
The wood weighs 720 kg m-3 and has a calorific value of 19,100 kJ kg-1 (Hawkins, 1982). In addition to its use for fuel it is also valued as a small construction timber. Walking sticks are also made of it. The ripe fruits are edible and the seeds are used in necklaces. It has been widely planted around Kathmandu as an avenue tree.
Its use as fodder is generally on rather a small scale. In the villages studied by Upadhyay (1991) it was used as fodder to a small extent from farm and fallow land in Dhading District in the Middle Hills; there it was valued mainly as a multipurpose species. It was not used at lower altitudes. In Dolakha District it formed about eight per cent of farmers' trees (Robinson and Neupane, 1988), and in the Lumle Extension Command Area about four per cent It was used to a small extent by the farmers in Lalitpur studied by Upton (1990).
In the parts of Sindhupalchok and Kabhrepalanchok Districts studied by Carter and Gilmour (1989), at higher altitudes (Nalla, 1774 m, and Devitar, 1405 m) it was the most common tree found on cultivation terraces. At Nalla, where it formed 39 per cent of trees found, farmers had planted their terrace edges with seedlings dug out from forest areas, and were tending them well. The main reason for planting P. cerasoides appeared to be that it can be propagated easily; it is more prized for construction and fuel than for fodder. Below 1200 m it was little used.
Prunus cerasioides has also been widely raised in community forestry nurseries. It has had high survival rates on many sites, at altitudes ranging from 500 to 2000 m. For a hardwood in the Middle Hills its early growth rate is relatively rapid. This combination of ease of establishment and relatively good growth are the main points in its favour.