Prunus americana (Wild Plum)

Plant Info
Also known as: American Red Plum
Genus:Prunus
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; fields, prairies, woolands, forest edges, roadsides, along shores
Bloom season:May
Plant height:10 to 25 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: UPL NCNE: UPL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Numerous convex to nearly globe shaped clusters from buds at the tips of branches, each cluster a 1 to 4-flowered umbel (stalks all arising from the same point) and emerging before the leaves in spring. Flowers are ¾ to 1 inch across with 5 white, round to egg-shaped petals with a single slender style and a spray of white, slender yellow-tipped stamens in the center.

[photo of sepals and clusters] The 5 sepals are green to red, about 1/3 the length of the petals, lance-oblong, rounded at the tip and spreading or reflexed downward. The edges lack glands or have just a few at the tip; the inner surface is hairy and the outer hairy or smooth. Flower stalks are slender and hairless.

Leaves and bark: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and alternate, the blade elliptic to oblong-elliptic, 2 to 4 inches long and 1¼ to 1¾ inches wide, the tip abruptly tapered to a point, and rounded at the base onto a 1/3 to 2/3 inch, hairy stalk. Upper surface is dark green, hairless or becoming hairless, the lower surface is lighter and somewhat hairy. Edges are sharply toothed, often doubly, but lack any glands except for a few at the edge of the leaf blade near the stalk.

[photo of twig] Twigs are reddish brown to gray with a flaking waxy cuticle the second year, typically smooth but occasionally persistently hairy. Branches are wide-spreading with older lateral twigs developing into stout spines up to 2½ inches long.

[photo of older, flaking bark] Older bark is dark gray, initially forming irregular ridges that later develop into hard, curling strips.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a purplish red drupe with a thin waxy bloom, about 1 inch in diameter with a single hard seed inside.

Notes:

A shrub or small tree, Wild Plum is common throughout our prairie and central hardwoods regions. Historically fire suppressed, it has expanded its presence into open prairie and man-made forest margins and openings where it can produce large, dense thickets through its suckering root system. Similar to Canada Plum (Prunus nigra), which is primarily a forest species that has blunt teeth on leaves and glands on the upper leaf stalk, where Wild Plum has sharp teeth, and glands on the edge of the leaf blade.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka, Douglas and Ramsey counties. Pollinator photos courtesy Heather Holm.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Ida - Anoka County, Ramsey, Minnesota
on: 2015-08-27 21:09:20

Found this wild plum tree not far from the Mississippi river in Ramsey, MN.

Posted by: Annette - It grows by lake Titlow in Sibley county.
on: 2016-05-28 12:32:00

It is growing wild along the lakeshore that floods seasonally.

Posted by: Pat W - Pillager area
on: 2016-12-16 17:25:46

Not a good landscape tree. I once bought five trees and planted them in my yard. After a few years I noticed shoots popping up 30 feet away and realized that they have total colonization in mind. I had a very difficult time eradicating them all. Be careful where you plant them. They do not make for good neighbors.

Posted by: Ashley H - Anderson Park, Rum River
on: 2017-08-24 14:37:53

Found a few growing along the shoreline of the Rum River Most of the fruits had fallen off. End of August.

Posted by: Greg S - Winona
on: 2017-12-04 07:49:19

Iím battling buckthorn and wondering if wild plum has the same orange inner bark that buckthorn does? I scratch the bark and if itís orange it goes Iím hoping Iím correct with that judgment.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-12-04 10:38:42

Greg, check the common buckthorn page for other distinguishing characteristics of dormant plants, such as the buds.

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