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American Wild Plum Prunus americana

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
PROO-nus ah-mer-ih-KAY-nah
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Prunus americana, commonly called American plum, 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 throughout the State. As a tree, it typically grows to 10-20' tall with a broad, spreading crown. As a shrub, it suckers freely and can form large colonies. It is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Remove suckers to prevent unwanted spread or to train into a small tree. It can form thickets with its thorn-like side branches so keep it will have to be maintained unless that is the desired result. It is fairly adaptable tough plant.

Fire Risk: This plant has a low flammability rating.

Seasons of Interest: 

  Blooms:  Early spring            Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Late summer

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  Plum curculio and brown rot can affect the fruit of the American Plum. Other potential disease problems include leaf spot, canker and black knot. Other potential insect problems include aphids, scale, borers and tent caterpillars.   This plant is susceptible to damage from deer. 

 

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Fairlane'
'Fairlane'
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#shrub#wildlife plant#native tree#cover plant#low maintenance#barrier#security#flowering tree#playground#showy fruits#small mammals#food source#fast growing#low flammability#NC native#wild turkeys#quail#spines#children's garden#red fruits#fire resistant#edible garden#edible tree#larval host plant#food source summer#cover#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#coastal UPL#fruits#bird friendly#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#Piedmont Mountains FACU#problem for cats#butterflies#pollinators#problem for dogs#problem for horses#birds#audubon
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Fairlane'
'Fairlane'
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#shrub#wildlife plant#native tree#cover plant#low maintenance#barrier#security#flowering tree#playground#showy fruits#small mammals#food source#fast growing#low flammability#NC native#wild turkeys#quail#spines#children's garden#red fruits#fire resistant#edible garden#edible tree#larval host plant#food source summer#cover#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#coastal UPL#fruits#bird friendly#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#Piedmont Mountains FACU#problem for cats#butterflies#pollinators#problem for dogs#problem for horses#birds#audubon
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Prunus
    Species:
    americana
    Family:
    Rosaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The plum fruit is used to make jellies and jam. The fruit is also eaten dried, which is then called a prune.
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    North America
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Its thickets provide good cover for songbirds and small mammals year-round.  It is a host plant for the Coral Hairstreak, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Red-Spotted Purple, Spring/Summer Azures, and Viceroy butterflies.  Adult butterflies nectar from the spring flowers.  The fruits are eaten by songbirds, wild turkeys, quail, white-tailed deer, and small mammals. Deer also eat the twigs and leaves.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Edible fruit
    Fragrance
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    fire in the landscape. Heat and drought tolerant.
    Edibility:
    Although the plums can be eaten raw, the quality is somewhat poor. The fruits are perhaps better used for preserves and jellies or dried to make prunes.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 10 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 15 ft. 0 in. - 25 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Broad
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Flowers are followed by 1 in., thick-skin, edible, round, red-purple plums (1" diameter) with bright yellow pulp which ripen in July and August. 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.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Umbel
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Petals:
    2-3 rays/petals
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Description:
    The American plum has 2-5 flowered clusters (umbels) of 5-petaled white flowers (1" diameter) that appear from March to April before the foliage. The flowers are unpleasantly aromatic.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The American plum has toothed, oblong to ovate leaves that are 3-4" long and turn yellow to red in autumn.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Gray
    Light Gray
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Ridges
    Smooth
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Irregular
    Bark Description:
    The bark is smooth and reddish/gray with numerous horizontal lenticels.  As the tree ages, the bark becomes rough with irregular ridges and exfoliating curling strips.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Branches and twigs are an attractive dark reddish-brown and sometimes have thorny lateral branchlets.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Barrier
    Flowering Tree
    Security
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Fire
    Problems:
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
    Spines/Thorns
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Stems, leaves, seeds contain cyanide, particularly toxic in the process of wilting: brick red mucous membranes, dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, panting, shock.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Cyanogenic glycosides
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Leaves
    Seeds
    Stems