Black Republican Cherry – Plant and Crop Profile

Black Republican Cherries can be traced to Oregon of the 1860s. It was bred and named by Mr. Seth Lewelling a Civil Rights advocate, abolitionist, and reputed participant in the Underground Railroad. He named it ‘Republican’ due to his beliefs in Equal Rights.

The fruit is smaller than most other cherries but is firm and tart. Once an important commercial variety that was surpassed by the Bing cherry. Today, like Black Republican people it is a rare but rewarding variety.

Currently they are listed on The “Ark of Taste” as an endangered food. The ark is an International catalog of endangered foods.

Three ripe black republican cherries hanging on the tree.

They are fairly small in comparison to many other varieties. They’re a black cherry, firm and round with a glossy deep purple to reddish black coloration. They have a intensely sweet black cherry flavor when fully ripe, but when under ripe they can be a tad tart to bitter.

At one time it was highly regarded by growers, but has waned in popularity due to its small size and astringency when not fully ripe. Other varieties over the years have replaced it in most commercial operations. It’s offspring, the Bing Cherry from the same breeder has surpassed it in commercial cultivation.

Black Republican has traditionally been used in desserts such as ice cream and yogurt. It is not completely absent from commercial cultivation, it is still found from time to time as a frozen cherry for use in food production.

The robust cherry flavor and pigmentation makes them exceptional in nearly all cooked applications. Growers use it as a pollinator for other varieties.

As per the Ark of Taste

“To lose the Black Republican cherry would be a tragedy both from a historical perspective and a gastronomical one. It is a connoisseur’s cherry that has a rich, concentrated flavor despite its small size. This cherry ripens late and is considered a good keeper, shipping and drying well. The Black Republican is a connoisseur’s cherry. Although modest in size, it has a rich, concentrated flavor that is both dense and complex, with notes of rose, herbs and almond. It has the powerful, classic black cherry flavor that “black cherry flavoring” aspires to. It is highly colored, firmly textured and juicy, which makes it ideal for preserving and exceptional for eating fresh, when fully ripe. “

Black Republican is not self pollinating, although it is used as a pollinator for other varieties – it too requires another Sweet Cherry variety nearby for pollination.

Hardy in zones 5 marginal in 4 & 6
Cold hardy down to -200 F
Mature Height 12-15 ft.
Mature Spread 10-12 ft.
Soil Type Well drained
Sun Exposure Partial Sun
Growth Rate Moderate
BloomTime Early April
Bloom Color Pink to Lavender
Fruiting Time 2 – 3 years
Fruit Color: Deep Purple to Red/Black
Fruit ripens July
Fruit Size less than 1/2 ” round
Fruit Taste Bitter if not fully ripe, Delectably Sweet and intense rich cherry flavor when fully ripe
Fruit Yield is above average , over 40 lbs from a well maintained mature tree
Disease: Susceptible to Bacterial Canker.