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Prunus americana Marshall
American Plum, Wild Plum
Rosaceae (Rose Family)
USDA Symbol: PRAM
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
A thicket-forming shrub or small tree with short trunk, many spreading branches, broad crown, showy large white flowers, and red plums. American plum is a small, understory tree to 35 ft. with fragrant, white flowers in showy, flat-topped clusters occuring before the leaves in spring. The fruit that follows ripens to a shiny, bright red in August or September. The short, crooked trunk - with scaly, black bark - supports a graceful, open crown. Fall foliage ranges from electric red to pale yellow.
The plums are eaten fresh and used in jellies and preserves, and are also consumed by many kinds of birds. Numerous cultivated varieties with improved fruit have been developed. A handsome ornamental with large flowers and relatively big fruit, American Plum is also grown for erosion control, spreading by root sprouts.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Size Notes: Up to about 35 feet tall.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
DistributionUSA: AL , AR , AZ , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , UT , VA , VT , WI , WV , WY
Canada: MB , ON , QC , SK
Native Distribution: S. NH to Man. & MT, s. to FL Panhandle, AR, KS & NM
Native Habitat: Woodland edges; stream banks; upland pastures
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Moist, rich, well-drained loams.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Plums are not a choice food for wildlife, but the plants provide valuable nesting cover and are a host to many butterflies.
Use Food: The fruits have tough, sour outer skins, but their sweet, juicy flesh is delicious, making excellent jams, jellies, preserves and pies. The plums can also be halved, then pitted and dried like prunes, spread in a thin sheet and dried as fruit leather. (Kershaw)
Warning: Plant has thorns or prickles. CAUTION: All parts of this tree, except the flesh and skin of the plums, contain the toxin hydrocyanic acid. (Kershaw)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Value to Beneficial InsectsSpecial Value to Native Bees
Special Value to Bumble Bees
Special Value to Honey Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
PropagationDescription: Prunus species may be rooted from dormant hardwood, softwood, semi-hardwood, or root cuttings. Semi-hardwood and softwood cuttings taken in summer root easiest. Germination of most seeds requires cold stratification. Some species need a period of after
Seed Collection: Collect fruit when it is filled out, firm, and its ripe color. Clean seeds from pulp and briefly air dry. (Seeds to be sown immediately in fall do not need drying.) Storage viability is maintained at 31-41 degrees.
Seed Treatment: For spring sowing, stratify seeds in moist sand for 30-60 days in a greenhouse, then cold stratify (36-41 degrees) for 60-90 days. Plant well before high temperatures.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
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National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
BibliographyBibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
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Web ReferenceWebref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Research LiteratureReslit 1843 - Germination rates of tree seeds ingested by coyotes and raccoons (1999) B. L. Cypher
Reslit 2058 - Various Freezing Strategies of Flower-Bud Hardiness in Prunus (1994) S. A. Kadir and E. L. Proebsting
Reslit 2242 - C3 woody plant expansion in a C4 grassland: Are grasses and shrubs functionally distinct (2001) J. K. McCarron and A. K. Knapp
Reslit 2265 - The Relationship of Leaf Size and Shoot Length in Prunus americana to Leaf-Galling by Mites (1990) M. F. Willson and D. J. Odowd
Reslit 2480 - Hosts, adult emergence, and distribution of the apple maggot (Diptera, Tephritidae) in Utah (1993) D. B. Allred and C. D. Jorgensen
This information was provided by the Florida WIldflower Foundation.
Search More Titles in Research Literature
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Prunus americana in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Prunus americana in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Prunus americana
MetadataRecord Modified: 2022-09-23
Research By: TWC Staff