Soc. Prom. Agr. Sci. p. 102-104 (1904)
The Possibilities of the Western Sand Cherry
N. E. Hansen, Brookings, South Dakota
The work of improving the Western Sand Cherry (Prunus Besseyi) was taken up at this station to meet the demand for a hardy cherry or a satisfactory substitute for it. After fruiting many thousands of seedlings, it appears reasonable to believe that in this species we have a bush cherry that can be raised to advantage upon the most exposed prairies. The following preliminary notes and conclusions may be of interest:
1. Prunus Besseyi is an exceedingly variable species in size and quality of fruit. All are acceptable for culinary use and the fruit is much used by prairie settlers as well as by the Indians.
2. Over one hundred varieties have been selected and are now under propagation for preliminary trial. Some of these bear fruit fully three-fourths of an inch in diameter and of quality acceptable for eating out of hand.
3. It hybridizes readily with several other members of the genus. The fruiting of our hybrids with Japanese plums, native plums, Prunus Simoni and other species is awaited with interest. Some of the hybrids are tri-specific.
4. Seedlings fruit well the third year, and under favorable circumstances the second year from seed. When worked on strong, native plum (Prunus American) stocks, fruit is borne in abundance upon shoots one year old from the bud or graft.
5. The species responds readily to cultivation. That ''Excess of food causes variation", upon which principle the work is mainly based, holds true in this case. The third generation is decidedly more variable than the first.
6. The fruit averages larger on strong-growing native plum stocks. It will soon be determined if seedlings from such fruits average better than seedlings raised on own roots. It appears probable that when grown on native plum stocks Sand Cherries bear better on heavy soils than when on own roots. The plants are remarkably productive when young, or on young shoots, but for older plants some system of renewal pruning may be advisable.
7. Mildew is often abundant on the foliage, especially in moist seasons. But a few seedlings appear practically proof against mildew; all future selection will be in this direction.
8. The species in the Rosebud Indian Reservation in southern South Dakota and just southward in northern Nebraska, favors poor sandy soil, even dry knolls and steep slopes. In 1902 a 250 mile overland exploration trip was taken by the writer in the range country west of Pierre especially along the Cheyenne River. Here the Sand Cherry was found fruiting abundantly on steep gumbo clay bluffs. The Sioux Indians here long ago learned to esteem this fruit highly. The aboriginal name for this fruit is Ah-oon-ye-yah-pa, meaning "with the wind"; this is an attempt to account for the widely varying quality of the fruit by the direction in which the picking is done with reference to the prevailing wind.
9. The "Rocky Mountain Dwarf Cherry" plants introduced to commerce from Colorado a few yenrs ago are evidently seedling sand cherries from Colorado which to say the least do not average any better than the Dakota form. The eastern Sand Cherry (Prunus pumila) is far inferior in quality of fruit and hardiness of plant to the western species. They are, however, closely related.
10. This species deserves special attention as a dwarf stock for peaches, apricots, Japanese and native plums. Tame cherries unite with difficulty. The past three seasons peaches of normal size have been raised at this station from trees on Sand Cherry stocks. These were trees grown in pots, tubs, and boxes, wintered in a cool cellar and fruited under glass. For orchard purposes plum trees on this stock must not be high-stemmed, as they get top-heavy and lop over when bearing a heavy crop of fruit. If used at all, it must be as a bush with several stems. The trees are not dwarfed in nursery. Evidently the trees should be headed back annually, at least until in heavy bearing, to keep them properly dwarfed. The fruit is fully up to standard in size and quality.
11. In American Pomological Society report for 1889, p. 160, Dr. C. E. Bessey called attention to the Sand Cherry in an article entitled "A Promising New Fruit for the Plains." Prof. J. L. Budd first took up the work of testing fully the Sand Cherry as a Stock (Iowa Exp. Station Bul. 22, 1893), and to improve the fruit by selection on a large scale; in this work the writer was privileged to assist.
12. The writer is now fruiting and burning many thousands of Sand Cherry seedlings every year. When say 200,000 more seedlings have been fruited, I hope to have some more theories to present on the subject.