It is a species that is native throughout the UK and Ireland, as well as West Asia, originating in Eastern Europe around the Caspian Sea; it spread throughout Europe in prehistoric times, settling itself in the UK before the Ice Age. A testament to its long establishment was found in central Ireland; during excavations in 2004, cherry stones were found in Bronze Age dwellings, confirming both the distribution and use of wild cherry. The planting of wild cherries became more prominent during Henry VIII’s reign; he believed that the fruit would help with symptoms of gout, so planted many cherry orchards throughout the South of England.
Wild cherry grows well in deep, light, fertile soils with a good but not too heavy water supply; it copes well on more alkaline soils, where there is deep soil containing chalk and limestone, as well draining valley slopes. It does not do well on sites that are too exposed, as its form becomes distorted and deformed, or waterlogged sites, as this causes premature root rot. Although very winter hardy, if a warm winter triggers an early flowering, these can be damaged by late frosts in Spring, affecting fruit development. When designing a woodland to include cherry, a prime example would be a sloping chalky hillside and/or valley bottom that has not been cultivated or worked.
Because of its shorter lifespan, Wild Cherry is typically planted as part of a broadleaf woodland mix as a more minor species. A typical broadleaf stocking density is between 1100-1600 trees/ha, 2.5-3m apart; this is to allow a good amount of space and light, allowing the variety of species to develop equally. This wider spacing is particularly good for Wild cherry, whose lower branches spread quite laterally, with all others pointing upwards. Its wide, lower branches, fruit and blossom make it an attractive tree for woodland edges. Compared to other broadleaf species, cherries mature relatively early, so should be thinned from 10 years onwards, so as to prevent suppression of any other species. It should also be pruned up to a height of 5m in the summer months, so that the wounds have a proper time to heal over; if timber is to be used for aesthetic purposes, then some knots are encouraged through later pruning.