Variety Early Rivers


Article by David Marks

The unbiased Hoggs Fruit Manual has this to say about the Early Rivers cherry tree variety:

Fruit, produced in clusters of ten or twelve, two to four being on one peduncle; large, nearly an inch in diameter, roundish heart-shaped, somewhat uneven and indented on the surface, marked with a faint suture, and slightly pitted on the apex, where there is a deep style-point. Skin, shining deep black. Stalk, an inch and three-quarters long, rather slender, green, and with a small, rather deeply-imbedded disk. Flesh, very tender, sweet, and agreeably flavoured. Stone, extremely small. A very excellent cherry; ripe in the end of June. The tree is an abundant bearer.

Use the checklist below to decide if the Early Rivers cherry tree variety is correct for you and your garden. If Early Rivers is not the correct variety, see our cherry tree varieties page here, to select another variety which may suit you better.

  • Only really suitable for growing in warmer parts of the UK because blossom first appears on average in the first to second week of April (pollination group 1).
  • The fruits are the earliest of all, ready for eating, on average, in the last week of June
  • Fruits are slightly larger than average with unusually small stones. Deep, shiny red, full-flavoured and sweet, a perfect eating cherry.
  • The picking period is longer than average, about two weeks often with two distinct flushes of fruit production.
  • This is a chance seedling raised by a Mr Thomas River of Hertfordshire¬† in 1867. It was awarded a First Class Certificate from the Royal Horticultural Society when it was first introduced in 1872.
  • This variety reliably produces lots of fruit.
  • Disease resistance is average.
  • It is self-sterile and needs a matching pollination partner to produce fruit. This fact, combined with the very early appearance of blossom restricts the list of pollination partners readily available in the UK. Only Merton Glory is both readily available and of the correct pollination group.
  • It is fully hardy in all parts of the UK (however, see above about blossom)

Early Rivers cherries. Picture from public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0.


Early Rivers is self-sterile and needs a suitable pollination partner to produce fruit. The following variety produces blossom at the correct time and is easily obtainable in the UK:

  • Merton Glory, pollination group 2, for eating straight from the tree


On Colt rootstock Early Rivers will grow to about 4m / 13ft tall when it has reached maturity after about 7 years. With an annual prune it can easily be kept to 2.4m / 8ft high for a manageable tree in most gardens.


Click on the box below to see the full range of cherry tree varieties which we have reviewed in detail. Click on any one of them to see the full variety review.



The following are the key rules for growing this variety, click here for more detailed information about growing and pruning cherry trees:

  • Plant and grow in a full sun position.
  • The best time to plant Early Rivers is in late autumn to early winter. It can be planted at other times of year but will require watering more frequently to ensure it establishes well.
  • Stake the tree for the first two years of its life on a Colt rootstock. If planted on Gisela 5 rootstock the tree will require staking for its life.
  • In the first summer after planting the tree, water well if conditions become dry.
  • Prune Early Rivers in the first year according to the suppliers instructions. Prune annually in later years, soon after the fruit has stopped being produced which will be about the second week of July for Early Rivers. See our detailed article on pruning cherry trees.