Black cherry grows from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick west to Southern Quebec and Ontario into Michigan and eastern Minnesota; south to Iowa, extreme eastern Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, then east to central Florida. Several varieties extend the range: Alabama black cherry (var. alabamensis) is found in eastern Georgia, northeastern Alabama, and northwest Florida with local stands in North and South Carolina; escarpment cherry (var. eximia) grows in the Edwards Plateau region of central Texas; southwestern black cherry (var. rufula) ranges from the mountains of Trans-Pecos Texas west to Arizona and south into Mexico; capulin black cherry (var. salicifolia) is native from central Mexico to Guatemala and is naturalized in several South American countries.
Black cherry fruits are an important source of mast for many nongame birds, squirrel, deer, turkey, mice and moles, and other wildlife. The leaves, twigs, and bark of black cherry contain cyanide in bound form as the cyanogenic glycoside, prunasin During foliage wilting, cyanide is released and domestic livestock that eat wilted foliage may get sick or die. Deer eat unwilted foliage without harm .
The bark has medicinal properties. In the southern Appalachians, bark is stripped from young black cherries for use in cough medicines, tonics, and sedatives. The fruit is used for making jelly and wine. Appalachian pioneers sometimes flavored their rum or brandy with the fruit to make a drink called cherry bounce. To this, the species owes one of its names-rum cherry .