Black Cherry stump sprouts



ArboristSite Operative
Dec 3, 2011
This is something I have been thinking about for many years - does stump sprout Black Cherry grow into very good logs?

I am well acquainted with how sensitive the species is to soil quality and how on a poor site it will never be anything but a small-ish weed tree with bad form. On poor sands it should be managed against, routinely, though instead I see it often ignored until it builds up into an ever increasing junk component of an otherwise good Oak/Pine site.

I also am familiar with how Red Maple rarely makes a purdy log as a stump sprout but a seedling origin Red Maple can be very very good - I heard of a sawn lumber sale here in northern Michigan this summer where Red Maple ran to a higher price than Sugar Maple (first ever, said the mill owner). And yes I know even quality Black Cherry has been just going to pallets a fair amount the last few years as the wood fell out of IKEA favor. But different colors of wood go in and out of style in certain applications as the years pass.

Black Cherry sprouts can certainly look good to me. Of course some will have an origin problem at ground level, or a bad low fork, etc. Some look like they get growing so fast they cork-screw like failed experimental Loblolly Pine can. But others will look pretty choice at ten years old - perfect origin, tall, straight, no forks.

What I don't know is - do they turn out good decades later, at sawlog diameter? Can a thinning entry successfully take out the not-so-good sprout stems around a really good one?

I work in what is called "young age management" and a friend of mine calls "the bastard step-child of the forestry business." Rare is the ownership that will invest in such work. So I see a lot of regen before it moves on to commercial size. Though where I live (northern half of Michigan's lower peninsula) complete overstory removal remains a bit rare on anything other than an Aspen site and most ownerships just keep thinning 2nd/3rd growth sites. When overstory removal does happen without a Populus spp. colony present, there is often a pretty good explosion of Black Cherry, both sprouts and new seedlings from it's common long-term seed bank. But I am not always sure how to interface it with the other species in terms of keeping it from being an early dominant with nothing else that can keep up and an overly limby form to the logs - will the sprout colonies self-prune into clean logs the way a seedling origin stem will while coming up in mixed species?

My current job is a Scotch Pine removal with a lot of Beech control, on a quality site that would be mixed Northern Hardwoods if there had been enough seed source scattered through it, rather than a now completely cut Red Pine plantation. I am thinking that on some of the Cherry sprout colonies (the most overgrown, zero-form ones), I might drop them all with very clean low stump cuts, once the leaves start to turn next month and carbohydrate reserves in the roots are at maximum. That should create a new set of sprouts that will shoot up over deer height pretty fast next summer. I often think that could be a way to go where Cherry mixes with quality Red Pine regen - cut the Black Cherry back when the Pine is 10-15' tall and the Cherry will shoot right back up and the whole stand might be a little more balanced, rather than the Pine struggling (and slowly losing) to keep up with the Cherry.

And my next job is similar - Scotch Pine removal from a Red Pine/Black Cherry mix (15 years old), though no Beech present. I am just not sure how much to try and release/favor certain good-looking Cherry stems in that one if sprout stems don't turn out good later on.