Black cherry is the only cherry tree that grows large enough to have commercial value. Because it was abundant and had qualities similar to mahogany, cherry was often used to make furniture in Colonial America. It's still highly valued today for the lustrous glow that it brings to furniture, cabinets, flooring, paneling, doors and trim. Sustainable cherry is also a wood of choice for some Martin Guitars.
Pink to reddish hues are characteristic of black cherry, but the wood is photosensitive and darkens quickly if exposed to sunlight. Cherry is blessed with a straight grain and fine texture. Wavy growth rings give it interest and personality, and it often presents with a swirl figure.
Softer and less dense than white ash and oak, cherry is easy to machine, nail and glue. It's somewhat brittle, though, and may split, chip or crack if you drop it or ask it to carry too much weight. Cherry bends with relative ease and finishes smoothly with sanding and polishing.
Varieties of black cherry grow throughout the eastern and central United States. Most trees large enough for commercial use grow in the Allegheny Plateau of Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia. Of all the trees grown in the mixed-wood, FSC-certified forests of Pennsylvania, cherry is the most valuable.
On the next page, learn about a sustainable hardwood that's at home in formal living rooms and in outdoor spaces.