Prunus americana (Wild Plum)

Plant Info
Also known as: American Red Plum
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial woody
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.


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.


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

I'm battling buckthorn and wondering if wild plum has the same orange inner bark that buckthorn does? I scratch the bark and if it's orange it goes I'm hoping I'm 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.

Posted by: Cynthia - Balsam Township, Itasca County
on: 2018-08-20 18:07:29

2018 was first year a wild plum tree flowered and produced fruit on our property.

Posted by: Scott Bruce Gildner - Walker
on: 2018-08-26 12:50:38

Found 2 fully fruited trees in Walker along the Paul Bunyan Bicycle Trail.

Posted by: Jeri - Northern Anoka county
on: 2018-09-02 12:28:01

I'm looking for started wild plum trees to purchase. Also looking for wild plums this season to pick. Thank you.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-09-02 12:39:41

Jeri, we do not track who sells what, so check "where to buy native plants and seeds" that is on most pages of the website. If those vendors do not have what you're looking for perhaps one knows who does.

Posted by: Bonnie W - Maple Grove
on: 2019-04-01 15:14:11

I have one growing wild in my back yard amongst the boxelder trees. It has beautiful fragrant flowers in the spring and the fruits make great jam that tastes like apricots. The mature fruits are a yellow orange color-some get slightly red.

Posted by: Jennifer Casura - Coon Rapids
on: 2019-07-26 12:27:01

There are two growing in my Mother's yard, in Coon Rapids. I know they've been there for at least 30 years.

Posted by: Carrie Poster - Carver
on: 2019-08-17 14:38:42

Found the plum tree at the Rapids Lake Visitor Center of MNVNWF.

Posted by: Jim Montonye - Rochester
on: 2019-08-24 09:43:10

Pick and make jelly and syrup. Seems like two kinds of here. One a tree and other like Bush. One is sweet other bitter. Tree the best 3 gallons today. Use tarp and shake tree

Posted by: Jamie Walock - Morrison county
on: 2020-08-15 18:55:40

I have lived here 23 years and noticed on the edge of the yard for the first time small plums. I remember the blossoms earlier thinking I wonder what that is. Ten plums total this year.

Posted by: Kristin - Richfield
on: 2020-09-17 20:07:33

We have one in our back yard. It has produced fruit off and on when I prune. The trunk is growing almost horizontally so I'm not quite sure what to do with it.

Posted by: Steve Brill - Cottage Grove
on: 2020-12-14 20:01:29

Found two thickets in the ravine park running south of Kingston park, growing along the east edge of the paved trail. Was able to harvest 2+ pounds three times in September. In late November or early December, the City or County was clearing out brush, bushes, and trees, and completely cut down these thickets. I am told that they will resprout, but it will take them a while to be mature enough to produce. With any luck I'll find some others nearby. They made a great tangy-sweet jam.

Posted by: Carly Austin-Kukowski - Mc Nally's landing, Prarie Island Rd, Winona
on: 2021-06-06 11:36:17

Found a few trees surrounding picnic table platform.

Posted by: Jennifer - NW Faribault
on: 2021-07-17 08:32:32

Found a patch in my prairie. Pretty sure this is what they are...

Posted by: Marisa - Clay County
on: 2021-08-13 07:34:19

My husband and I bought our first home in October of 2017. Upon inspection we discovered the "giant bushes" in the middle of the yard were actually 10 wild plum trees. We trimmed them up and have been enjoying making jelly ever since to share with friends and family.

Posted by: Naomi Jackson - Minneapolis
on: 2022-01-20 11:32:47

I would like to know where I could get a few wild plums without doing something environmentally unfriendly such as accidentally buying a cultivar. I want something that it would be okay if it spread to nearby wild areas.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2022-01-20 12:01:50

Naomi, we do not track who sells what, but see "where to buy native plants and seeds" that is shown on most web pages here, or the list of native plant vendors. I am sure some of those nurseries carry native plums.

Posted by: Debbie - West Lakeland
on: 2023-05-09 20:27:12

Do the spines differentiate these from the Canada plums? We have some with awful spines, like what's pictured; but they haven't formed thickets even though they border our woods and are well established. We assumed the original owners planted them, but I don't know why anyone would deliberately choose this variety. They're very hard to manage because of the spines.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-05-10 05:19:11

Debbie, the spines are not a feature of any particular variety, but are naturally occurring in the species. Both American and Canada plum have them.

Posted by: Paul Gauthier - Little falls.
on: 2023-08-13 20:07:32

Have one as a polinator.Its 7 years old.Sandy soil here along mississippi river. Plentiful flowers early spring brings lots of tiny bees. Fruit is very very sweet. Its the fist to flower of pears, cherry,and apple trees.

Posted by: Ashley G - Hinckley
on: 2024-01-18 11:26:52

There was a plum tree north of Hinckley on the walk to the track/baseball field near Kettle River. Used to grab a couple on the way to practice - delicious!

Posted by: Kate Gipp - Grey Cloud Dunes SNA, Cottage Grove
on: 2024-04-25 18:05:30

There are many thickets of them throughout the SNA plus a few lone trees here and there. The pollinators were very active around them today. April 25, 2024

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