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A deciduous shrub of variable stature, often a low bush about 2 ft high, but sometimes a slender shrub 6 to 8 ft high, with erect, dark secondary branches and prostrate main branches; branchlets glabrous. Leaves narrowly obovate, 11⁄2 to 2 in. long, about one-third as wide, slightly toothed towards the apex, entire at the narrowed base, greyish green. Flowers white (sometimes rather dull) about 1⁄2 in. across, produced in stalkless umbels of two to four, each flower on a stalk 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. long. Fruits black or purplish, 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. diameter, without bloom, bitter.
Native of the north-eastern United States; cultivated in England in 1756. Its flowers appear in mid-May, and although small, so profusely are they borne that it is very pretty then, especially if grown in a mass, and if the whitest flowered forms are obtained, for some are much purer than others. Propagated by cuttings and layers. This species may be regarded as the type of a small, but very distinct group of dwarf American cherries. Of these the western sand cherry, P. besseyi, is here treated as a species (q.v.). The others, also regarded by some authorities as meriting specific rank, are:
P. depressa Pursh
P. susquebanae Willd.
P. cuneata Raf.
P. pumila var. cuneata (Raf.) Bailey