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Mr. Smarty Plants - Natural lifespan of wild plum trees

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Monday - May 12, 2008

From: The Colony, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Natural lifespan of wild plum trees
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a small border of Wild Plum Trees in our yard. Every year it seem that one or two of the biggest trees die. Do they have a specific life span? We transplanted the trees/bushes from the panhandle area. They have been growing for about 15 years.

ANSWER:

First, we needed to establish which wild plum you have, so we looked at the members of the Prunus genus that are found native in Texas.

Prunus gracilis (Oklahoma plum) is found in the Panhandle of Texas. It is a straggly, thicket-forming shrub that may reach 6' in height, but is not usually that tall.

Prunus havardii (Havard's plum) is found only in one or two spots in far West Texas. It is another thicket-forming shrub. Image

Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum) is native to a small section of the Panhandle and North Central Texas. It is actually a tree in shape, can grow from 12' to 35' tall.

Prunus rivularis (creek plum) is found in Central and North Central Texas; yet another thicket-forming shrub.

Prunus texana (peachbush) is found only in far South Texas, endemic to the Edwards Plateau and the Rio Grande Plains.

Since we don't know which one of these you have or if, indeed, you have a hybrid that we wouldn't even have in our Native Plant Database, we tried to find out what the average age of plum trees, whether actual trees or shrubs, might be. The best we could find out was that 10 to 15 years in the landscape was about the best you could hope for. Some orchards got as old as 30 years old, but that was not the usual thing.

We found this article from the Texas Gardener Magazine by Dr. Larry Stein "So what do we do with old fruit trees?" It has a great deal of excellent information about deciding when it's time to give up on a fruit tree. His main point is that they will live and produce longer if they are properly cared for when they are first planted, in terms of water, keeping weeds away, etc. If your trees are at least 15 years old, show no insect damage or root disturbance, they are probably dying at about the expected age. If you would like to continue your hedge with the same plants, see this article from the University of Florida Extension Propagation of Woody Ornamentals by Cuttings.


Prunus gracilis

Prunus mexicana

Prunus rivularis

Prunus texana

 

 

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