Bird Cherry (Prunus padus L.) in history and culture of Ukrainian and other ethnicities


  • Olga Opalko
  • Nataliia Derev'ianko
  • Anatoly Opalko



botanical nomenclature, ethnobotanical lexemes, folk medicine, pharmacy, phytonym.


Aim. Decorative and confectionery-pharmaceutical value of bird cherry (Prunus padus L.), the complex history of the phytonyms’ formation, the transcendent symbolism and poetics of its image, ideas about bird cherry in different ethnic groups, and the pragmatic need to modernize the traditions they have preserved led to the need for necessitated research. Methods. The authors conducted the retrospective analysis of the formation of the bird cherry’s folklore image; revealed the formation of its modern scientific terminology and botanical nomenclature, attempts to preserve the symbolism of the bird cherry’s folk names in different ethnic groups for future generations and the prospects for introducing P. padus representatives in horticulture. The commonly used methods of theoretical analysis, systematization, comparison, and generalization of specialized literature have been applied (Hurrell et al., 2019). Results. Polyphilia of the subgenus Prunus subg. Padus (Mill.) Peterm. (=Prunus subg. Padus (Moench) Focke), debatable rank and status of P. padus species and the incompleteness of its taxonomy are confirmed. The autochthonous nature of bird cherry in Ukraine is supported by the richness of its dialect folk names. However, the dialect names of bird cherry were not always really motivated. They symbolized the plant in colorful verbal and poetic images and connected it with the oldest sacred traditions. Folk names and symbols of bird cherry in Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian dialects, variants of its nomenclature and symbolism in the traditions of English-speaking ethnic groups, and the Spanish language's onomastic field had been discussed. Works on the bird cherry’s use in folk medicine and modern pharmacy, and prospects for attracting materials from Prunus spp. Collections of NDP “Sofiyivka” of NAS of Ukraine and experimental farm “Novokahovske” of the Rice Institute of NAS of Ukraine for gardening, horticulture, and breeding are characterized. Conclusions. The ambiguity of the bird cherry’s folklore image in the ideas of close Slavic ethnic groups, the connection of these ideas with the composition of the local dendrological flora, and the traditional value of P. padus and other representatives of the subgenus Padus for traditional and scientific medicine, the prospects of their introduction into horticulture, and the need to involve ethnobotanical lexemes in enlightenment are proved.



How to Cite

Opalko, O., Derev’ianko, N., & Opalko, A. (2021). Bird Cherry (Prunus padus L.) in history and culture of Ukrainian and other ethnicities. Journal of Native and Alien Plant Studies, (17), 176–187.