Shelterbelt Varieties for Alberta - Mayday, European Bird Cherry

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 Plant characteristics | Fall colour | Site preference | Hardiness | Uses | Problems | Diseases | Insects | Pruning

Scientific Name: Prunus padus var commutata Dipp.

Plant Characteristics

Mayday is a small deciduous, usually multi-stemmed tree. It can grow to a mature height of 5 to 10 m (15 to 30 ft), and a spread of 6 m (20 ft). It has an annual growth rate of 15 to 60 cm (6 to 24 in.) and has a useful life of 12 to 50 years.

Mayday is naturally low-headed with ascending branches. It is one of the first trees to leaf out in the spring.

Bark - Mature bark is gun metal' grey.

Flowers - Flowers are white and very fragrant and appear in May after the leaves have emerged.

Fruit - Black berries, 6 to 8 mm (0.25 in.) in diameter, appear in late summer. Astringent taste.

Leaves - Leaves are alternate, dark green above, lighter below; elliptic to obovate, 6 to 12 cm (2 to 5 in.) long. The margin is coarsely and sharply serrate.

Propagated by seed.

Fall Colour

Leaves are yellow, but some years they appear with a little red.

Site Preference

Mayday has a wide soil adaptation with some drought resistance. It prefers half shade to full sun locations.


Hardy to northern Alberta.


Suitable for large yards, parks, specimens, mass plantings, or shelterbelts. In shelterbelts mayday should be planted 1 to 3 m (3 to 10 ft) between trees in the row and 5 to 8 m (17 to 26 ft) between rows.


Fruit in late July can stain concrete.


Susceptible to black knot (fungus). Control by pruning and burning removed portions.


Forest tent caterpillars

Aphids (in August)


Prune to remove dead, diseased or broken branches.

Shelterbelts Varieties for Alberta provides information on a number of other trees and shrubs than may be suitable for shelterbelts.

Visit our website directory for the Reforestation Woodlot Listings.

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Toso Bozic.
This document is maintained by Brenda McLellan.
This information published to the web on May 4, 2001.
Last Reviewed/Revised on December 21, 2016.