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Mume Prunus mume

Previously known as:

  • Prunopsis mume
Phonetic Spelling
PRU-nus MU-may
Description

The Japanese flowering apricot is a small-sized, bushy, ornamental deciduous tree with a rounded to oval crown that is usually 15 to 20 feet tall and equally as wide. From January through February, the tree displays beautiful, delicate, and fragrant pale pink flowers on bare branches and brightens up the long winter days. The leaves emerge afterward, and they are green, ovate, and serrated margins. Yellowish-green, fuzzy-skinned fruits appear and can be harvested during the summer. Unfortunately, the taste of the fruit is sour to bitter. This tree is a member of the Rosaceae or rose family. 

It is native to China South-Central and Laos in woods and rocky hills. The Japanese flowering apricot is an important tree in Chinese culture and has been cultivated for over 1500 years. The five petals of the flower are said to represent five blessings that include wealth, health, love of virtue, old age, and natural death. Although it did not originate In Japan, it is grown extensively there and boasts up to 300 cultivars. 

In the United States, the species is not commonly planted; however, there are cultivars available for the home landscape. Dr. J. C. Raulston of North Carolina State University, worked tirelessly to increase interest in this flowering tree. A large selection of Japanese flowering apricot trees can be seen at the North Carolina State University Arboretum.

The genus, Prunus, is derived from Latin and means plum or cherry. The epithet, mume, is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese name for this plant.

This tree prefers full sun to partial shade, moist, acidic, loamy soils. They are best planted in protected areas so that the winter cold will not damage the flowers and the eventful fruits. It is intolerant to poor or dry soils. The Japanese flowering apricot blooms on the previous year's wood and the buds are set during the growing season the year before. If the tree needs pruning, it is best done immediately after flowering. 

There are over 300 cultivars of this tree to brighten up any winter landscape when very few other trees are in bloom. Its cultivars include white, pink, rose, and red flowering in single and double forms. It is similar in habit and appearance to some of the smaller flowering cherries that bloom a bit later in the season.

It can be challenging to find them in garden centers. 'Peggy Clarke’ is a popular selection that bears double flowers in a deep-rose shade. ‘Kobai’ has red, semi-double flowers on a vigorous plant. Weeping selections such as ‘W.B. Clarke’ has double pink flowers, and there are several white-flowered forms available.  Most flowering apricots have at least some fragrance.

The Japanese flowering apricot is ideal for a small garden plus it adds beautiful color to the winter landscape. Consider this tree for added interest near a walkway, patio, or deck, as a specimen, or in a group. Be sure to plant it in a sunny and protected location.

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom: Winter    Foliage:  Spring and Summer           Fruits:  Summer

Form: Rounded; dense, twiggy growth; variable with cultivar

Quick ID Hints:

  • deciduous, small-sized, bushy, rounded or oval crown, 15 to 20 feet tall and wide
  • light gray and smooth bark when young, exfoliating, and furrowed with age
  • polished, shiny green, and glabrous stems
  • alternate, simple, ovate, 2 to 4 inches long, sharply serrate leaves with a rich green above, and pubescent on veins
  • 5-petaled, pale pink flowers, 1 to 1.25 inches in diameter, single or paired, bloom late winter on bare branches.
  • round, fuzzy, edible, yellowish-green to yellow-orange drupes, 1 to 1.25 inches in diameter with a stony seed, harvested in summer.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: This tree is resistant to most insects and diseases.  Potential insect pests of the Japanese flowering apricot tree include aphids, scales, borers, spider mites, and tent caterpillars. The tree is susceptible to bacterial canker, honey fungus, silver leaf, and brown rot. In winter, cold temperatures may damage the flowers and fruits. The fruits can be messy if allowed to just fall to the ground. Trees that are grafted on peach rootstocks may be attacked by the peach tree borer. The leaves, stems, and seeds are toxic to dogs, cats, or horses if ingested.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy, and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Patio Room Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Souto Sun Garden Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Part Sun-Part Shade Gardens
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Alba'
    single white flowers
  • 'Albo-plena'
    White flowers
  • 'Alphandii'
    Pink flowers
  • 'Benishidare'
    Crimson flowers
  • 'Bonita'
    semi-double rose-red flowers
  • 'Bridal Veil'
  • 'Contorta'
    single white flowers, twisted and curled branches
  • 'Dawn'
    large ruffled double pink flowers
  • 'Fujibotan'
  • 'Kobai'
    deep red semi-double flowers
  • 'Matsubara Red'
    double dark red flower, red new growth, then turns green
  • 'Peggy Clarke'
    double deep rose flowers
  • 'Pendula'
    pink, single or semi-double flowers on pendulous branches
  • 'Rose Bud'
  • 'Rosemary Clarke'
    double white flowers with red calyces
  • 'Tojibai'
    White flowers
  • 'Trumpet'
    single pink flowers
  • 'W.B. Clarke'
    double pink flowers, weeping habit
'Alba', 'Albo-plena', 'Alphandii', 'Benishidare', 'Bonita', 'Bridal Veil', 'Contorta', 'Dawn', 'Fujibotan', 'Kobai', 'Matsubara Red', 'Peggy Clarke', 'Pendula', 'Rose Bud', 'Rosemary Clarke', 'Tojibai', 'Trumpet', 'W.B. Clarke'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#fragrant flowers#wildlife plant#winter interest#ornamentals#drupes#edible fruits#pollinator plant#fantz#larval host plant#butterfly friendly#winter flowers#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses#eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Alba'
    single white flowers
  • 'Albo-plena'
    White flowers
  • 'Alphandii'
    Pink flowers
  • 'Benishidare'
    Crimson flowers
  • 'Bonita'
    semi-double rose-red flowers
  • 'Bridal Veil'
  • 'Contorta'
    single white flowers, twisted and curled branches
  • 'Dawn'
    large ruffled double pink flowers
  • 'Fujibotan'
  • 'Kobai'
    deep red semi-double flowers
  • 'Matsubara Red'
    double dark red flower, red new growth, then turns green
  • 'Peggy Clarke'
    double deep rose flowers
  • 'Pendula'
    pink, single or semi-double flowers on pendulous branches
  • 'Rose Bud'
  • 'Rosemary Clarke'
    double white flowers with red calyces
  • 'Tojibai'
    White flowers
  • 'Trumpet'
    single pink flowers
  • 'W.B. Clarke'
    double pink flowers, weeping habit
'Alba', 'Albo-plena', 'Alphandii', 'Benishidare', 'Bonita', 'Bridal Veil', 'Contorta', 'Dawn', 'Fujibotan', 'Kobai', 'Matsubara Red', 'Peggy Clarke', 'Pendula', 'Rose Bud', 'Rosemary Clarke', 'Tojibai', 'Trumpet', 'W.B. Clarke'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#fragrant flowers#wildlife plant#winter interest#ornamentals#drupes#edible fruits#pollinator plant#fantz#larval host plant#butterfly friendly#winter flowers#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses#eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Prunus
    Species:
    mume
    Family:
    Rosaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Grafting
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    China South Central and Laos
    Distribution:
    Native: China South Central and Laos. Introduced: China North-Central, China Southeast, Hainan, Inner Mongolia, Japan, Korea, Manchuria, Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang
    Wildlife Value:
    This is a larval host plant for Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). You may see three flights from February-November in the deep south and two flights from May-September in the north. The fruits attract birds. The flowers are pollinated by insects.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Edible fruit
    Fragrance
    Wildlife Food Source
    Edibility:
    The fruits are used often in Japan to make jellies and wine. When eaten fresh, the fruits have a sour or bitter taste.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 15 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 15 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Erect
    Oval
    Rounded
    Vase
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Fine
  • 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 Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Orange
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Fruits are drupes that are fuzzy, round, yellowish-green to yellow-orange, and 1 to 1.25 inches in diameter with a stony seed. They may be harvested in summer. They are edible but taste sour or bitter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Winter
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are 5-petaled, 1 to 1.25 inches in diameter, and appear singularly or in pairs. They are pale pink, and fragrant, and bloom in late winter usually from January to February. The cultivars come in colors of white, pink, deep rose, or red and may be single, semi-double, or double. The flowers smell strongly of clove.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are alternate, simple, ovate, acuminate, cuneate, sharply serrate, rich green above, and pubescent on veins below. Petioles are glandular. Leaves are 2 to 4 inches long. The fall foliage is yellow.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Furrowed
    Bark Description:
    The bark is light gray and smooth when young. With age, the bark exfoliates and is furrowed.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Stems are polished, shiny green, and glabrous.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Patio
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Flowering Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Problems:
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses