Capulin Cherry - Prunus salicifolia HBK.
Cherry habit of the Punus serotina (close relative of the P. saliciflolia
Fig. 1
Cherry habit of the Punus serotina (close relative of the P. saliciflolia

Mexican Bird Cherry, Prunus salicifolia leaves
Fig. 2
Mexican Bird Cherry, Prunus salicifolia leaves

Prunus salicifolia red new growth
Fig. 3
Prunus salicifolia red new growth

Prunus salicifolia leaves and flower buds
Fig. 4
Prunus salicifolia leaves and flower buds

Inflorescense and bee pollinating
Fig. 5 
Inflorescense and bee pollinating

Prunus salicifolia leaf habit
Fig. 6 
Prunus salicifolia leaf habit

Mexican Bird Cherry, Prunus salicifolia branch habit
Fig. 7

Mexican Bird Cherry, Prunus salicifolia
Fig. 8

Mexican Bird Cherry, Prunus salicifolia tree
Fig. 9
Mexican Bird Cherry, Prunus salicifolia tree
Scientific name
Prunus salicifolia HBK.
Common names
Mexican bird cherry, capulin, capuli, capoli or capolin in Colombia and Mexico, and cerezo, detsé, detzé, taunday, jonote, puan, palman or xengua; cerezo criollo in Colombia; capulin, cereza, cereza común, or wild cherry in Guatemala; capuli in Bolivia; capuli or black cherry in Eucador 1
Prunus salicifolia Kunth; Prunus salicifolia var. acutifolia S. Watson 4
Sweet Cherry (Prunus avium), Western Sand Cherry (P. besseyi), Myrobalan Plum (P. cerasifera), Sour Cherry (P. cerasus), European Plum (P. domestica), Beach plum (P. maritima), Japanese Plum (P. salicina), Nanking Cherry (P. tomentosa), Common Chokecherry (P. virginiana) and others 2
Native to the highlands of Mexico and Western Guatemala 3
USDA hardiness zones
Fruit; landscape specimen
40-50 ft (12-15 m) 1
15 ft (4.6 m)
Crowns become one-sided unless they receive light from all around the plant 5
Plant habit
Semi deciduous; erect tree; umbrella-shaped 2
Growth rate
Stout trunk and rough, grayish bark 2
Alternate; aromatic leaves; 2 3/8-7 in. (6-18 cm); dark green; glossy, finely toothed; new growth rosy 1
White, fragrant flowers are formed on medium-length racemes from Jan. to March
Pendulant clusters of 5-20 fruit; round; 3/8-3/4 in (1-2 cm); red or nearly black; tender skin; pale-green, juicy pulp; sweet or acid; slightly astringent 1
May to August
Light requirement
Full sun or partial shade 4
Soil tolerances
Well-drained; acidic soil for best growth; non-compacted soil 4
PH preference
Drought tolerance
Somewhat tolerant of dry conditions; roots should be kept moist and should not be subjected to prolonged drought 5
Aerosol salt tolerance
Soil salt tolerance
Not salt tolerant
Cold tolerance
20°F (-6.67°C)
Fairly shallow root system 5
Invasive potential *
None reported
Pest resistance
Few pests or diseases affect the capulin in Florida 3
Known hazard
The interior of the pit, as well as the twigs and foliage, are toxic 3

Reading Material

Capulin Cherry from the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
Information from California Rare Fruit Growers Inc.
Capulin from Julia Morton's book Fruits of Warm Climates
The Capulin from W. Popenoe's book Manual of Tropical and Subtopical Fruits

The capulin is a true cherry and doesn't really belong with fruits of warm regions. However, it must be included here to distinguish it from the Jamaica cherry (q.v.), for the two share a number of colloquial names. 1


The capulin cherry is native and common throughout the Valley of Mexico from Sonora to Chiapas and Veracruz and possibly western Guatemala. 2

The tree is upright in habit. The trunk is strong and dense; young branches are supple and tough. The capulin has good landscape value.  the tree is vigourous and grows rapidly.  The capulin deserves wider planting in Florida and is worthy of additional efforts aimed at improvement. 3
Capulin cherries are quite attractive, both when in bloom with dangling racemes covered with masses of flowers and after fruit set when the racemes are thick with green, light red or deep red ripening fruit. 2
This species is closely related to Prunus serotina, but it has larger edible fruits.

Flowers, borne in slender, pendent racemes with 1 or more leaves at the base, are about 3/4 in (2 cm) wide with white petals and a conspicuous tuft of yellow stamens. 1
Capulin Cherry trees are related to Northern Cherry trees, such as Bing Cherries. Unlike their relatives, Capulins have a dormancy period that is triggered by day length rather than by cold temperatures and therefore do not need cold winter weather to regulate their yearly flowering and fruiting cycle.

The aromatic fruit is round, 3/8 to 3/4 in (1-2 cm) wide, with red or nearly black, rarely white or yellowish, smooth, thin, tender skin and pale-green, juicy pulp of sweet or acid, agreeable, but slightly astringent flavor. There is a single stone with a bitter kernel. 1
As many as 15 or 20 fruits sometimes develop on a raceme, but half or more fall before reaching maturity. 2
The trees will produce fruit 2 to 3 years after planting, and under the right conditions will set more than one crop per season. For reasons unknown trees with gray bark seem to produce larger fruit than those with darker bark. 2


Until recently, the capulin was exclusively reproduced from seed.  Thererefore, the capulin is still in its infancy in terms of improvement.  Preferred cultivars include 'Ecuadorian,' 'Fausto,' 'Harriet, 'Huachi Grandem' and 'La Roca Grande.' The quality of inferior varieties and seedlings is often disappointing. 3

Like other cherries, the fruits are ready to harvest when they has developed full color and yield to gentle pressure. The skin is thin and tender but sufficiently firm for the fruit to resist bruising. 2

The flowers are much visited by honeybees. 1
Cross-pollination is not required. 2

Capulin cherries are easily propagated by seed but the fruit quality of seedling trees is quite variable. Seedling plants are typically used as rootstock for desired cultivars using tip, wedge or cleft grafts. The plants can also be propagated from hardwood cuttings for growth on their own roots. 2

The tree appears to be tolerant of drought in its native habitat where roots are allowed to explore a large volume of soil, but growth is often poor in restricted soil spaces characteristic of urban areas. 5

The trees need very little pruning to remain productive, although some pruning is useful to keep them at a desired height and to facilitate fruit harvest. They will take radical pruning and can be grown as a fruiting hedge. 2

A regular fertilization program with slow release nitrogen is recommended to keep plants vigorous. Too much nitrogen in the soluble form could stimulate sprouting. 5

Capulin cherries are somewhat drought tolerant, but they grow better and produce better fruit with regular watering, particularly during the period between flowering and fruiting. 2

Few pests and diseases affect the capulin in Florida.  In south Florida the Caribbean fruit fly pdf 6 pages sometimes invades the fruit. Mites and scales may require control. Birds occasionally raid the fruit. 3

Food Uses
The ripe fruits are eaten raw or stewed; also are preserved whole or made into jam. In Mexico they are used as filling for special tamales. With skin and seeds removed, they are mixed with milk and served with vanilla and cinnamon as dessert. Sometimes the fruits are fermented to make an alcoholic beverage. 1

Medicinal Uses **
A sirup made of the fruits is taken to alleviate respiratory troubles. The leaf decoction is given as a febrifuge and to halt diarrhea and dysentery; also applied in poultices to relieve inflammation. A leaf infusion is prescribed in Yucatan as a sedative in colic and neuralgia and as an antispasmodic. The pounded bark is employed in an eyewash. 1

Other Uses
The sapwood is yellow with touches of red. The heartwood is reddish-brown, fine-grained, very hard, strong, durable. It is used for furniture, interior paneling, cabinets, turnery and general carpentry. Old roots are valued for carving tobacco pipes, figurines, et cetera. 1
After 6-8 years it yields an excellent reddish lumber for guitars, furniture, coffins and other premium products. The wood is hard, is resistant to insect and fungus damage, and sells at high prices. 6

List of Growers and Vendors


1 Morton, J. "Capulin." Fruits of warm climates, p. 108-109. 1987. Web. 16 Jan. 2015.
2 "Capulin Cherry." 1997. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.
3 Boning, Charles. Florida's Best Fruiting Plants: Native and Exotic Trees, Shrubs and Vines. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. p. 54-55. 2006. Print.
4 "Prunus salicifolia synonyms." The Plant List (2010). Version 1. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.
5 "Mexican Bird Cherry, Prunus salicifolia." Landscape Plants. Environmental Horticulture. University of Florida. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.
6 "Capuli Cherry, Prunus capuli, P. salicifolia or P. serotina." Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia. Extract from 'Quandong' magazine of the West Australian Nut and Tree Crop Association (Inc.) Vol 16 No.1. Jan. 1993. Web. 17 Jan. 2015.


Fig 1 Prunus serotina. N.d. Forestventure. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.
Fig 2,7,8,9 Mexican Bird Cherry, Prunus salicifolia. Landscape Plants. Environmental Horticulture. University of Florida. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.
Fig 3,4,6 Jose16mh. Prunus salicifolia. 2015. Under (CC BY-SA 4.0). Web. 6 Apr. 2017.
Fig 5 Anduze Traveller. Prunus salicifolia. 2007. Under (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). Web. 17 Jan. 2015.

UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas
** Information provided is not intended to be used as a guide for treatment of medical conditions.

Published 17 Jan. 2015 LR. Last update 6 Apr. 2017 LR
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