Where I grew up (SE MI) there were a bunch of these in the yard. They were wild and largely trouble-free, casting a fairly thin shade that grass grew readily underneath (and I would guess other plants might, too). Maybe one year in five, there'd be a big crop of fruit to gather and do something with, but most years the birds had them all, and most of the trees were so big (12-18 inches thick) that they were out of reach anyway. They did drop quite a few small twigs, and one year a bad ice storm broke down some large branches (which was not true of the oaks, the other major tree in the yard). As a kid I recall being freaked out by the tent caterpillars which would get in the trees, in varying numbers, most every year and when they are mature and ready to pupate they drop out wherever, including onto you if you happen to be there! Yuck! Sometimes I'd go on a rampage to try to clean or burn the nests out, but they never seemed to damage the trees in any significant way. One year a very late cold snap and snow killed off the new growth….it does come out early compared to other wild trees, except willow, but a few weeks later it all came out green again…..
BTW the bark is an important medicinal and the wood from large trees is a valuable furniture wood…..
Pros: tall and stately, attractive in bloom and fall, excellent host plant for some nice butterflies (tiger swallowtail, red spotted purple, spring azure, maybe some hairstreaks too), good for birds (fruit and a top insect habitat tree), beautiful high value timber and small branches give a nice scent to barbeque, nice honey fragrance in bloom and a good short-season nectar plant for both honeybees and butterflies
Cons: (wilted at least) foliage is harmful to mammals if eaten, birds will spread it by pooping seeds, wrong framework (compared to southern live oaks at least) for climbing and installing swing sets, subject to ugly "black knot" fungus (as are chokecherries and European plums, but you're not going to reach the canopy to prune it out with this tree) which is always an aesthetic problem if it is in your area but really bad news if you are also growing crops afflicted by it since you now have a source of spores, shade intolerant pioneer species, compared to say hickories you're not going to reach the edible crop (the tiny cherries) but at least as a street tree that means bird poop not the hail of falling nuts to damage your car, and one of the moths that use it as a host is the dreaded Eastern Tent Caterpillar.
Doesn't fix nitrogen nor is it readily harvestable for food, so really an ornamental, wildlife, and timber tree, not a high-density food forest tree.
(Based on Prunus serotina aside from its tropical capulin cherry subspecies [which differs in adaptation and by being shorter, evergreen, and in domesticated cultivars more realistic as a fruit source. Prunus avium--sweet cherry--is also called "black cherry" at least in Europe. It also grows really tall, but you will get fruit from the lower branches. However that larger fruit is messier.)
I agree with the other posters, I am also in Southeast Michigan and there are much better trees you could plant. Wild Black Cherry around here is pretty short lived and disease prone. The fruit is pretty bitter and mostly all pit.
Open-grown they're a tall, pretty attractive tree. Planted around other competitors they tend to bend toward the most available light and take some pretty gnarled shapes. They seem to do best on loamy soils with moderate moisture- they'll grow on rocky sites but they're typically stunted and gnarly, I haven't often seen them growing in clay soils.
Fruit's valuable for birds and other wildlife. As others have said, they seem to produce loads of fruit every couple years. They're not large, pea-sized at best, and awfully tart. One of these days I'm gonna make a Belgian-style kriek out of them, if I ever get enough. Other parts of the plant are toxic.
I think they're a pretty enough tree, probably not seen often enough in yards. It breaks up the oak/ash/red maple monotony, and they're lightyears better than many of the non-native options.
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