En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - March 12, 2014

From: Elmendorf, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany, Trees
Title: Are Prunus minutiflora male and female flowers on different plants?
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus


I have a Prunus minutiflora and have recently learned the male and female flowers are on separate plants. How can I determine if I have a male or female plant?


When I first read your question I thought to myself:  "I didn't know that. I think I better check several sources to confirm that  Prunus minutiflora (Dwarf plum or Texas almond) is dioecious, i.e., with male and female flowers on different plants."  I found the Aggie-Horticulture site that says:  "It is dioecious, that is, male and female flowers are on separate plants.  Apparently, staminate (male) plants are more numerous than the pistillate (female)."   Next I thought I should also check this statement in Correll and Johnston.  1979.  Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas.   Things got a little confusing when I read that they wrote that all Prunus species have "perfect flowers", i.e., they have both stamens (male parts) and pistils (female parts).  They do say that the flowers have numerous stamens, but there is only one pistil per flower.  I could not find information in any of the other numerous print sources that I have for Texas plants that the tree is dioecious so I assumed that the Aggie-Horticulture site was in error.   I decided to check with our staff authority, Joe Marcus, who provided the following reference:  THE PUBESCENT-FRUITED SPECIES OF PRUNUS OF THE SOUTHWESTERN STATES by Silas C. Mason in The Journal of Agricultural Research (1913) vol. 1, no. 2.  On page 152 of this paper Mason states that three of the Prunus spp. discussed in paper [Prunus fasciculata (Desert almond), Prunus microphylla (Mexican wild almond) and Prunus minutiflora (Dwarf plum)] share the following feature which makes them dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants):

"The California desert almond (Prunus fasciculata), the Texas wild
almond (P. minutiflora), and the Mexican wild almond (P. microphylla),
agree in three important characters which separate them clearly from
the three other species of this group. All three are dioecious by the abortion
of either stamens or pistils; the number of the stamens is usually
reduced to 10 or 15 and a portion of them inserted on the walls of the
calyx cup."

So, even though the flowers have the potential to be perfect flowers, either the stamens or the pistil of the flower becomes non-functional so that each individual plant has all its flowers functioning as males or all its flowers functioning as females.

On page 174 you will find a description of the botanical characteristics of Prunus minutiflora that includes this statement:

"The minute flowers, borne singly or paired, on short peduncles, are usually crowded
on short, budlike fruiting spurs. They appear with the leaves in February or March
and are minute and dioecious by the abortion of the stamens in the fruiting form and
of the pistils in the opposite form."

On page 173 of this paper you can see line drawings of both pistillate flowers and staminate flowers of P. minutiflora.    By comparing the drawings to the flowers on your tree you should be able to determine if your tree is male or female.  Unfortunately, that is the only way I know that you will be able to tell unless your tree has recently borne fruit—in that case, it is definitely a female.

In the two photos that we have showing flowers of P. minutiflora in our Image Gallery (see below) you can see the many stamens, but there are NO pistils to be seen.  This is easier to see if you can zoom in on the flowers in the photos.  I did search the internet for photos of female flowers of P. minutiflora, but could find none.


From the Image Gallery

Texas almond
Prunus minutiflora

Texas almond
Prunus minutiflora

More General Botany Questions

Spraying paint on White Pine tree trunks
October 31, 2011 - Is there a paint that is safe to spray on a tree trunk without damaging/killing the tree? We have White Pines that have ~16" spacing without limbs & would like to 'camouflage' the bare space. If pa...
view the full question and answer

20 years to bloom
May 02, 2007 - My girlfriend and i have come up with an interesting question, we were wondering if there is a plant in existance that takes over 20 years to bloom, and how many different kinds (if any) there are? We...
view the full question and answer

Is there a flower that blooms only once in seven years?
December 17, 2008 - Just wanted to know if there exists a flower that blooms only once in seven years? Thank you!
view the full question and answer

Why do some flowers open during the day and close at night?
April 08, 2009 - My son is doing a science fair project on the California Poppies. We are trying to find the definitive answer on why the flowers open during the day and close at night.
view the full question and answer

Failure of flameleaf sumacs to produce fruit
January 09, 2013 - Our two flame leaf sumacs produce none to little fruit. Both are about 4 years old, quite large, healthy looking; flowering this year was very good, but no fruit. What keeps them from producing fruit?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center