American Plum, Prunus americana

American Plum

Prunus americana

Benefits: Pollinator Benefit Graphic
Sun Shade: Plant Light Requirements Graphic
Bloom Time: Spring
Hardiness Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Soil Conditions: Loam
Soil Moisture: Dry, Medium
Color: Green, Yellow
Fragrance: Yes
Height: 15 to 25 feet
Spacing: 20 feet

American Plum (Prunus americana) is a small, deciduous, single trunk tree or multi-stemmed shrub which occurs in rocky or sandy soils in woodlands, pastures, abandoned farms, streams and hedgerows. As a tree, it typically grows to 15-25 feet tall with a broad, spreading crown. As a shrub, it suckers freely and can form large colonies. 2-5 flowered clusters (umbels) of 5-petaled white flowers (1 inch diameter) appear in March before the foliage. Fertilized flowers often develop into fleshy fruits that are globoid and about 1 inch across. These fruits are initially green, but they later become yellow or red (usually the latter) when they are fully ripened during the fall. The skin of each fruit is glaucous. The pulp of each fruit is fleshy and juicy; it becomes sweet when the fruit is fully mature. At the center of each fruit, there is a single large stone (a seed with a thick hard coat). This stone is ovoid and somewhat flattened, tapering at both ends. Toothed, oblong to ovate leaves are 3-4 inches long and turn yellow to red in autumn. Branches and twigs are an attractive dark reddish-brown and sometimes have thorny lateral branchlets. The root system is woody and branching. Sometimes new saplings are produced from underground runners.

This species is usually grown for ornamental value and not for fruit production, however. Although the plums can be eaten raw, the quality is somewhat poor. The fruits are perhaps better used for preserves and jellies.

Habitats include mesic woodlands, woodland borders, savannas, thickets, powerline clearances in wooded areas, and fence rows. This species benefits from occasional disturbance in wooded areas as it is unable to compete with larger canopy trees. For some reason, this species is not often cultivated.

Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Remove suckers to prevent unwanted spread. Fairly adaptable.

 Further Information

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