[NAFEX] Oxheart Cherries

Anton Callaway marillen at earthlink.net
Sat Jan 6 07:31:49 EST 2007

"Oxheart" appears to have been used in both a generic way for a type of cherry and also for several specific cultivars, just to add to the confusion.  One such specific cultivar was renamed, 'Major Francis'.  'Major Francis' can still be purchased at a few nurseries.  Below are the descriptions & references from Hedrick's "The Cherries of New York":
OX HEART                      Prunus avium

1. Miller Gard. Kal. 154. 1734. 2. Christ Handb. 663. 1797. 3. Brookshaw Hort. Reposit. 1:36, P1. 18 fig. 2. 1817. 4. Coxe Cult. Fr. Trees 249. 1817. 5. Truchsess-Heim Kirschensort. 132-135. 1819. 6. Downing Fr. Trees Am. 176. 1845. 7. Am. Pom. Soc. Rpt. 244. 1858. 8. Mas Pom. Gen. 11: 57, 58, fig. 29. 1882. 9. Oberdieck Obst-Sort. 365, 366. 1882. 10. Mathieu Nom. Pom. 339, 371. 1889.
Bigarreau Gros Commun. II. Mag. Hort. 9:203. 1843.

Ox Heart is very commonly used as a class name for the large, meaty varieties of cherries which are cordate in shape. In America the name is most often given to the light-fleshed cherries, such as Yellow Spanish, Napoleon or White Bigarreau at one time, however, the name was applied to a distinct variety known throughout England, Germany and America, being first mentioned by Miller, an Englishman, in 1734 Coxe, in 1817, was the first American writer to list the variety but it never became popular in the New World. Ox Heart appeared among the fruits rejected by the American Pomological Society in 1858 and from then on it gradually gave way to better varieties. The synonyms of the true Ox Heart are badly confused not only with other dark-fleshed varieties but with those of the Yellow Spanish type. As some of these varieties are merely listed while others have but a meager description, it is impossible to separate or group them with any degree of certainty. In the 1909 catalog of the American Pomological Society there appears an Ox Heart of American origin and of recent introduction, known in the West as Major Francis. There are also in several nursery catalogs a "white-fleshed Ox Heart." What this variety is we are unable to say. The following is a description of Ox Heart compiled from European fruit books:

Tree medium in vigor, round-topped, spherical, productive; branches somewhat curved; internodes of medium length; leaves obovate, obtusely pointed, margin finely serrate; petiole short, rather slender, flexible, tinged red, with two reniform glands; flowers small; petals irregularly elliptical.

Fruit matures the last of June or early in July; medium to large, cordate, pointed, sides unevenly cornpressed; color lively red changing to intense purple or nearly black; stem of medium length and thickness, usually tinged red, inserted in a broad, deep cavity; skin tough; flesh dark red, with abundant colored juice, half-tender but firmer than most Heart, sweet though slightly bitter before complete maturity; quality good; stone medium in size, broadly cordate, adhering to the flesh along the ventral suture. 
Ox Heart (of America). P.avium. 1. Am. Pom. Soc. Cat. 24. 1899. Major Francis. 2. Am. Pom. Soc. Rpt. 127- 11875. 3. Wash. Sta. Bul. 92,:29. 1910. Coeur de Boeuf nouveau ? 4. Mas Pom. Gen. 11: 160. 1882.  This cherry originated with G.W. Walling, Oswego, Oregon, about 1865, and was renamed in honor of Major Francis of Portland. As yet it is known only in the Northwest. The fruit is of good quality, attractive color, ripening with Black Tartarian, but is readily sought by the birds. Tree very large, vigorous, upright, productive; fruit large, heart shaped, dark red; flesh deeply stained with red, juicy, sweet; quality good; too tender for long shipment; season early.

BTW, in my limited experience, Major Francis doesn't do well in Zone 7 (where I used to live).  It is too susceptible to bacterial canker.  It reportedly does well in more northerly climates.
-----Original Message-----
>From: "Lon J. Rombough" <lonrom at hevanet.com>
>Sent: Jan 5, 2007 11:33 PM
>To: North American Fruit Explorers <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
>Subject: Re: [NAFEX] Oxheart Cherries
>Luther Burbank bred sweet cherries and I'm pretty sure one of them was 
>named Oxheart.   Since Burbank was in Santa Rosa, California it's 
>easily possible your mother could have encountered his varieties in 
>Woodland, California since they aren't that far apart.
>-Lon Rombough
>Grapes, writing, consulting, my book, The Grape Grower, at 
>http://www.bunchgrapes.com  Winner of the Garden Writers Association 
>"Best Talent in Writing" award for 2003.
>On Jan 5, 2007, at 7:15 PM, cmbarley at inreach.com wrote:
>    I have been on this list a while but lurking, trying to absorb a 
>part of all of the knowledge you people have to share. My mother is in
>her 80's and talks about an Oxheart cherry that they ate when she was a
>little girl. I have searched the internet and can find no references.
>Does anyone know if the is the description of the fruit, or an actual
>variety, or where I might find more information?
>Cliff Barley
>Woodland, CA

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