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A free-growing, deciduous tree up to 30 or 40 ft high in gardens, with a loose, spreading head of branches; young twigs downy. Leaves broadly ovate or roundish, with a short, abrupt, often blunt apex, the base rounded or slightly heart-shaped, shallowly toothed, 1 to 21⁄2 in. long, 3⁄4 to 2 in. wide, almost or quite glabrous above, more or less hairy on each side of the midrib beneath, glossy green; stalk 1⁄2 in. long, with a pair of glands. Racemes 11⁄4 to 2 in. long, carrying six to ten flowers, which are pure white, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. across, very fragrant, each on a stalk about 1⁄2 in. long. The racemes spring from the wood of the previous year, and are furnished towards the base with small leaf-like bracts. Fruits about 1⁄4 in. long, somewhat egg-shaped, black.
Native of Central and S. Europe; in cultivation 1714. It flowers in the last week of April and early May, and is then one of the most beautiful of flowering trees, filling the air with fragrance for yards around. It is fast-growing, and if planted in very rich soil is apt to become rank and ungainly. In the sandy soil of Kew it thrives and blossoms remarkably well. Both the species and its varieties may be increased by cuttings made of moderately firm young wood, and placed in gentle bottom heat, also by layers. The type, raised from seed, has been used as a stock for grafting cherries on.
P. m. var. chrysocarpa Nichols