A deciduous shrub of variable stature, often a low bush about 2 ft high, but sometimes a slender shrub 6 to 8 ft high, with erect, dark secondary branches and prostrate main branches; branchlets glabrous. Leaves narrowly obovate, 11⁄2 to 2 in. long, about one-third as wide, slightly toothed towards the apex, entire at the narrowed base, greyish green. Flowers white (sometimes rather dull) about 1⁄2 in. across, produced in stalkless umbels of two to four, each flower on a stalk 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. long. Fruits black or purplish, 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. diameter, without bloom, bitter.
Native of the north-eastern United States; cultivated in England in 1756. Its flowers appear in mid-May, and although small, so profusely are they borne that it is very pretty then, especially if grown in a mass, and if the whitest flowered forms are obtained, for some are much purer than others. Propagated by cuttings and layers. This species may be regarded as the type of a small, but very distinct group of dwarf American cherries. Of these the western sand cherry, P. besseyi, is here treated as a species (q.v.). The others, also regarded by some authorities as meriting specific rank, are:
var. depressa (Pursh) Bean P. depressa Pursh – A prostrate variety growing flat on the ground and scarcely rising 12 in. above it. Leaves broadest above the middle, tapered to the base, mostly rounded or obtuse at the apex. Native of north-eastern N. America.
var. susquehanae (Willd.) Jaeg. P. susquebanae Willd.; P. cuneata Raf.; P. pumila var. cuneata (Raf.) Bailey – Resembling typical P. pumila in habit but usually under 3 ft high. Leaves obovate, bluntly toothed above the middle, whitish green beneath. Fruits astringent. Native of eastern N. America as far south as N. Carolina.