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Prunus americana

Common Name(s):
American plum, Wild plum
Native Plants, Shrubs, Trees

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 15-25' tall with a broad, spreading crown. As a shrub, it suckers freely and can form large colonies. 

The branches and twigs are an attractive dark reddish-brown and sometimes have thorny lateral branchlets.  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.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont

Seasons of Interest: 

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

Wildlife Value:  This plant is suseptable to damage from deer.  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.

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.

15-25 ft.
The American plum has 2-5 flowered clusters (umbels) of 5-petaled white flowers (1" diameter) that appear in March before the foliage. The flowers are unpleasantly aromatic. Flowers are followed by edible, round, red plums (1" diameter) with bright yellow pulp which ripen in early summer. 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.
The American Plum is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Remove suckers to prevent unwanted spread. It is fairly adaptable.
Often grown as a shrub but can be grown as a tree; thicket forming; spreading branches; broad crown; thorn like side branches
Sun; well drained soil
Showy white flowers in spring; fragrant; 1 in., thick-skin, red plums in summer
15-25 ft.
Growth Rate:
The American plum has toothed, oblong to ovate leaves that are 3-4" long and turn yellow to red in autumn.
host plant, showy fruit, deciduous, low maintenance, fragrant, thorns, rapid growth rate, songbirds, butterflies

NCCES plant id: 521

Prunus americana Prunus americana
Dan Mullen, CC BY-NC-ND - 4.0
Prunus americana Prunus americana
Mary PK Burns, CC BY-NC - 4.0
Prunus americana Prunus americana
Matt Lavin, CC BY-SA - 4.0