Prunus avium 'Thomas' STARK GOLD

Common Name: bird cherry 
Type: Fruit
Family: Rosaceae
Zone: 5 to 7
Height: 15.00 to 18.00 feet
Spread: 15.00 to 18.00 feet
Bloom Time: April
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: High
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy, Edible


Grow in average, medium moisture, well drained soil in full sun. Prefers moisture-retentive soils with good drainage. No tolerance for wet soils. Site in a sheltered location where periodic chemical spraying will not pose problems to adjacent areas.

Needs another variety for pollination.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Prunus avium is generally grown as an ornamental cherry tree. It is native to Europe and Asia and has been cultivated in the U.S. since colonial times. Although it is a parent of many of the sweet cherry cultivars sold in commerce today for fruit production (such as the popular bing cherry), its fruits are smaller and not as sweet or tasty as the cultivars. It is a deciduous tree that typically grows 20-30’ tall in cultivation, but may reach 60’ in its native habitat. Fragrant white flowers (to 1.5” diameter) appear singly or in 3-5 flowered clusters in spring slightly before the foliage emerges. Flowers are followed by small sweet red to black cherries which ripen in early summer. Oval, dull, dark green leaves (to 6” long) turn yellow in fall. Birds and squirrels love the fruit, and are undoubtedly in part responsible for the naturalization of this tree from gardens into the wild in eastern and midwestern North America. Also commonly called mazzard cherry.

Genus name from Latin means plum or cherry tree.

Specific epithet is from the Latin word for bird.

'Thomas', sold under the trade name of STARK GOLD, is a semi-dwarf sweet cherry cultivar. It is an exclusive introduction from Stark Bro's of Louisiana, Missouri. It typically grows 15-18' tall and produces a crop of golden, sweet cherries in early summer. Stark Bro's maintains that birds will leave these cherries alone, thus obviating the necessity of using any netting or nylon mesh to protect the fruit in season. White blossoms in early spring.


Potential disease problems include leaf spot, bacterial canker, brown rot, black knot, crown gall, leaf curl, leaf scorch, powdery mildew, root rot, scab and shot-hole fungus. Potential insect pests include aphids, fruit flies, saw flies and scale. Netting or nylon mesh can be used, if necessary, to prevent birds from stealing the crop. Cold winter temperatures and spring frosts can cause significant injury to buds/flowers, almost to the same extent as with peaches.

'Thomas' may not require bird netting.


Grown primarily for the fruit crop and not for ornamental value. This semi-dwarf cherry is ideal for smaller spaces.