Pollination is essential in producing cherries since without pollination, the trees will bloom but not produce fruit. While it might seem a simple transaction to move the pollen from the stamen to the pistil, it's a bit more complicated. Cherry trees need the right pollen and a bit of outside assistance in order to produce fruit.
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Self-Fruitful Versus Self-Incompatible
Cherry trees that are self-fruitful, also known as self-pollinated or self-fertile, do not require another cultivar of tree to produce cherries. Self-incompatible, or self-unfruitful, trees require another variety of cherry tree in order to produce cherries. Sour cherry trees are self-pollinated. Most sweet cherry trees are self-incompatible. Some self-fertile sweet trees include Stella, Skeena Sweetheart, WhiteGold, Sonata, Symphony, BlackGold, Sunburst and Lapins varieties.
Just because you've planted two different sweet cherry trees does not guarantee they will pollinate, either. Some varieties are too similar to each other, which makes them cross-incompatible. For example, Bing, Lambert, Napoleon, Star and Emperor varieties will not pollinate each other. Windsor, Van and Venus are also cross-incompatible. So are Viva, Hedelfingen and Vista varieties. One can use a variety from one group to pollinate a variety from a different group, such as using Van to pollinate Bing varieties.
Understanding blooming times is important when considering pollination. If you plant an early-blooming variety next to a late-blooming variety, they won't produce pollen at the same time. Early-bloom sour trees include Somerset, Lapins and Skeena. Early- to early mid-blooming cherry trees include Kristin, Chelan, Black Republican, Sweetheart and WhiteGold. Mid- to late mid-blooming range include Royalton, Summit, Ranier, Royal Ann, Napoleon, Bing, Burlat, Van, Regina, Lambert, Sam, Windsor, Sonata, Stella, Symphony and Sunburst. Late-blooming cherry trees include Gold, Hudson and BlackGold.
Importance of Bees
Even trees that are considered self-pollinating need some help from Mother Nature to produce cherries. Since wind is usually insignificant to pollinate the trees, some bee activity is necessary. Most backyard trees will have enough wild bees to pollinate, but orchards need at least one beehive per acre in order to sufficiently pollinate all the trees.
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