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Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

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Prunus nigra (Canadian plum)
Watkins, Mariann

Prunus nigra

Prunus nigra Aiton

Canadian Plum, Canada Plum, Red Plum

Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Synonym(s): Prunus americana var. nigra


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Canadian plum is a small, 20-30 ft., upright-branched, narrow-headed tree. Its white flowers occur before the leaves in large clusters on long red pedicels. Fruit is yellowish-red to red. Fall foliage ranges from dark red to purple. Bark is dark and smooth.

The northernmost native plum was first recorded along the St. Lawrence River in 1535 by Jacques Cartier (1491-1557), French explorer. Earlier, Native Americans had brought him the dried fruits. The Latin species name, meaning "black," refers to the dark branches. Thickets are formed from root sprouts. These plums are eaten fresh and made into preserves and jellies.


From the Image Gallery

7 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Fruit: Red, Orange
Size Class: 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May


USA: CT , IA , IL , IN , MA , ME , MI , MN , NH , NY , OH , VT , WI
Canada: MB , NB , ON
Native Distribution: Nf. to w. Ont. & MN, s. to VA, KY & IA
Native Habitat: Moist woods; thickets

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Alkaline (pH>7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Moist, rich soils.
Conditions Comments: This plant adapts to a variety of soils, is fast-growing and short-lived.


Use Wildlife: Birds and other wildlife eat the fruit.
Warning: CAUTION: Children have died from eating too many plums without removing the stones. As with other plums, all parts of this tree, except the skin and flesh of the fruits, contain the toxin hydrocyanic acid. (Kershaw)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: 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

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Prunus nigra in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Prunus nigra in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Prunus nigra


Record Modified: 2012-10-20
Research By: TWC Staff

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