We planted a cherry tree last fall. Now I see
that something is causing the new leaves
to curl, and there are numerous little black
specks on them. I’ve searched various
websites and can’t figure out what this is.
—Sherry Milliken, Hawley, PA
Cherries and related Prunus species, including peaches, plums and apricots, are susceptible to quite a few diseases and insect pests. From your description, it sounds like your tree may have an infestation of black cherry aphids. Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that suck sap from plant leaves with their piercing mouthparts. They target soft new foliage, and their feeding often causes the affected leaves to curl and pucker. Many garden aphids are green, but black cherry aphids, as the name suggests, are distinctly black. From a distance they may well look like the little black specks you mention.
Aphid populations can be reduced or eliminated several ways. A simple and nontoxic method is to blast the aphids off the leaves with a strong jet of water from a hose. Repeat this one or more times a day until the aphids are gone. Spraying with insecticidal soap is another option; this low-toxicity pesticide is quite effective against aphids.