Pavlovsk’s cherries

by Jeremy on November 17, 2010

The parties arguing about the future of Pavlovsk Experiment Station have disagreed over the state of the collection. Inspections claimed that parts of the collection were neglected and in disarray. The researchers at Pavlovsk are now beginning to respond with their own view of the collections in their care. First [1] to report are Dr A. A. Yushev, Curator of the sour cherry, sweet cherry, bird cherry and nut crops collections, with Dr S. Yu. Orlova, a senior researcher in the Department of Fruit Crops.

They say that cherries have been collected and studied at Pavlovsk since its founding in 1926, and that because sour cherries produce for only about 15 years in the conditions of Pavlovsk, the collection has been replanted several times. The most recent replanting took place from 2004 to 2010, to replace trees that were themselves planted in 1989-91. Crucially, Yushev and Orlova say that the expert group based its conclusion of neglect on seeing the old, 1989-91 trees only, and without the advice or assistance of any members of staff.

The old trees are being kept only to verify the identity of the new young plantings, the researchers say, which is good practice.

The collection has also almost doubled in size in recent years, as the breeders have brought in new cultivars bred recently in Russia and some East Asian wild relatives that are potential sources of resistance to Coccomyces fungal diseases. [2] On current reckoning, the collection includes 187 accessions of sour cherry and steppe cherry, 52 of sweet cherry, 14 varieties of Microcerasus and 49 of bird cherry, 302 in total. Then there are 140 seedlings of Microcerasus tomentosa seedlings, and some of the accessions are being brought into tissue culture. “The total plants at the new replanted site is 852,” Yuchev and Orlova write, which must mean that there are some duplicates. They add that “accessions at the site are in good condition” and include 18 sour and sweet cherry cultivars that are of historic interest because they formed the basis of the collection before 1939.

Maintaining collections of genetic resources in good condition is hard, time-consuming and often both thankless and neglected. It must be tempting, under those circumstances, to let documentation slide. Documentation, however, is really the life-blood of any collection, for unless people know what is there, how can they possibly give it any value?


  1. At least, I hope that there will be more reports.
  2. VIR lists these all as Cerasus species: C. kurilensis, C. maximowiczii, C. sachalinnensis (sic) and C. maackii. USDA GRIN prefers Prunus maximowiczii and P. sargentii for 2 and 3, and does not have entires for 1 and 4. Wikipedia does list P. maackii, but not P. kurilensis. Ah, taxonomy.


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