Tremendously prolific, the Black Tartarian Cherry was among the most widely planted of fruit varieties in North America. Taking its name from the purple black fruit and its reputed place of origin, Tartary, the Black Tartarian fruit bore on a “remarkably vigorous, erect and beautiful” tree (William J. Course Nursery, Baltimore MD, 1909). The size of the fruit—averaging an inch in diameter—was big enough to catch the eye, and its unique texture and taste—“half tender, with a peculiar liver-like consistency, rich, nearly destitute of acid, of very fine flavor” (A. Mosby, Richmond Commercial Nursery Catalogue for 1897)—gave it market distinction among the sweet cherries. It was too soft to become a shipping cherry; but was among the most popular home use varieties because it was adaptable to a wide range of soils and climates, easily pollinated by almost any other sweet cherry, and consequently was among the most easy of cherry varieties to grow successfully. Introduced into England from Circassia in Russia in 1794, it was one of the European varieties imported and naturalized by William Prince Sr. of New York. Trees purchased from his Long Island nursery supplied southern pomologists and growers. It remains widely available from commercial suppliers, from mass market retailers such as Lowe’s to long established regional nurseries such as Stark Brothers: http://www.starkbros.com/products/fruit-trees/cherry-trees/black-tartarian-cherry
"Very large; purplish black; half tender; flavor mild and pleasant. Tree a remarkably vigorous, erect and beautiful grower, and an immense bearer. Ripe last of June and beginning of July. On of the most popular varieties in all parts of the country." William J. Course Nursery, Baltimore, MD 1909.
Nurseries that offered the Black Tartarian Cherry prior to 1920:
Atlanta Nurseries, Atlanta, GA 1895. Bluegrass Nursery, Lexington, KY 1891. Cedar Cover Nurseries & Orchard, Salem, NC 1893. Concord Nursery, Concord, GA 1909. Dixie Garden Nursery, Chatanooga, TN 1907. Downer Nursery, Fairview, KY 1870. Eastern Shore Nursery, Denton, MD 1900. Excelsior Nursery, Rome, GA 1890. Frederick Nursery, Frederick, MD 1897. Fruitlands, Augusta, GA 1885-1899. Garvin Nursery, Wheeling, WV 1895. Geraty Nursery, Yonge's Island, SC 1907. Greensboro Nursery, Greensboro, NC 1910. Guilford Nurseries, Vandalia, NC 1897. Hopewell, Nursery, Fredericksburg, VA 1859. Huntsville Nursery, Huntsville, AL 1892. Kentucky Nursery, Louisville, KY 1897. Milford Nursery, Milford, DE 1890. Munson Hill Nursery, Falls Church, VA 1897-1908. Old Dominion Nursery, Richmond, VA 1902-1907. Pomaria Nursery, Pomaria, SC 1856. Richmond Commercial Nursery, Richmond, VA 1897. Silver Leaf Nurseries, Booen's Path, VA 1888. Staunton Nursery, Staunton, VA 1858. Van Lindley Nursery, Pomona, NC 1899-1908.
Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD 20705, Mary Arnold, 1918.
David S. Shields