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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.

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

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Monday - May 19, 2008

From: Sulphur Springs, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of possible wild plums thickets
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have several "thickets" of small shrub/bushes on my land that I hunt on. These small trees are usually 5-7 feet tall, always grow in thickets of ten to up to sixty or so bushes. They are always loaded with what I call "wild plums" that normally are all dropped by the end of May. I always shred around these thickets because the wildlife, and myself absolutely love to eat them. They are a light red to dark red with a hint of yellow when ripe. The flesh is a yellowish/orange, and it has a single seed, the mature fruit is about the size of a quarter. These thickets are wild, have always been there, and are usually found on the sandy hillsides out away from the swamp. I live in Sulphur Springs, Hopkins County, Texas, and was just wondering what are these? I've always called them wild plums, and look forward to gathering them, along with the blackberries in May every year. Almost forgot, the leaves are about a 1/2" wide, by about 2" long on the longer ones, and the branches have "sort-of" thorns, but not as sharp as a locust, or bodark.

ANSWER:

This sounds like you have correctly diagnosed that these are native Prunus plants; the question being, which one? Of the thirty-two members of the Prunus genus in our Native Plant Database, we found five that are native to Texas, and, by looking at the USDA Plants Profile for each, established that these could reasonably be expected to live in the Hopkins County area. We will list them below, and by clicking on the plant name, you will go to the Wildflower Center webpage for that particular plant. Most of them have very good descriptions of leaf length, etc., and pictures. Take a look at these and see if we have found the right one; if not, go to the Mr. Smarty Plants page and, under "Plant Identification" in the lower right-end part of the page, find instructions for sending us a digital picture. Oh, one more thing. The seeds of all members of the Prunus genus are extremely poisonous. Obviously, you're still here to write about them, so you haven't swallowed one yet, we recommend that you keep up that practice.

Prunus angustifolia (Chickasaw plum)

Prunus gracilis (Oklahoma plum)

Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum)

Prunus rivularis (creek plum)

Prunus umbellata (hog plum)


Prunus angustifolia

Prunus gracilis

Prunus mexicana

Prunus rivularis

Prunus umbellata

 

 

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