Sandcherry is a low to midsized shrub that grows to a height of 1 to 6 feet. Sandcherry grows in small clumps and produces multiple stems. The plant is monoecious, and ½” wide white flowers growing in clusters on the tips of branches take shape in early May to mid-June. Its leaves are simple, alternate, and not serrated, unlike those of other Prunus species. The bark is dark grayish brown, with conspicuous lenticels, and grows rougher over time. The fruit, which matures in late July and early August, is a relatively large, 1/3 to ½” in diameter black or purple berry encasing a single seed.
Sandcherry flowers attract a wide range of native bees, and its seeds are dispersed by small mammals and birds.
Sandcherry grows well in direct sunlight and prefers dry, sandy, rocky soils. It seems to be most common in soils derived from basic or neutral limestones and sandstones. Sandcherry is common in savannas and oak openings and withstands temperature and precipitation extremes easily. It is resilient to disturbance and resprouts quickly after fire or browsing. Look for it along roadsides, forest edges, and in dry, upland prairies.
In the Arb:
While there are a few individuals in the Arb, a better place to look for Sandcherry is at McKnight Prairie, a 33 acre remnant tallgrass prairie owned by Carleton and located 7 miles east of campus.