SPECIES OF PLUMS:
Plums are actually part of genus Prunus, subgenus Prunus, and further divided into three “sections”:
1. Section Prunus (a.k.a. Old World Plums)
2. Section Prunocerasus (a.k.a. New World Plums)
3. Section Ameniaca (a.k.a. Apricots) – yes, those great tasting apricots!
Section Prunus (Old World Plums)
- P. cerasifera (cherry plum, myrobalan plum) – Zone 5
- P. cocomilia (Italian plum)
- P. consociiflora
- P. domestica – Zone 4-9
Common Plum – oval, blue to dark purple, with yellow flesh
Prunes – oval, blue to purple with yellow-green flesh
Green Gages – round, green with yellow-green flesh
- P. domestica var. insititia – Zone 4
Damsons or Damask plum – oval, dark blue to indigo with yellow-green flesh
Bullaces – round, “white”, yellow, green, blue, or purple with yellow-green flesh
- P. salicina – Zone 6-10
Oriental (“Japanese”) Plums – round or oval, yellow or red, with red to yellow flesh
- P. simonii
- P. spinosa (blackthorn or sloe)
- P. alleghaniensis (Allegheny plum) – Zone 5
- P. americana – Zone 3-8
American Plum – round to oval, yellow to red-purple with yellow-green flesh
- P. americana var. niagra (Canada plum) – Zone 3
- P. angustifolia (Chickasaw plum) – Zone 5
- P. angustifolia var. watsonii (sandhill plum) – Zone 5
- P. hortulana (hog plum) – Zone 5
- P. maritima (beach plum) – Zone 3
- P. mexicana (Mexican plum)
- P. munsoniana (wild goose plum) – Zone 5
- P. nigra (Canada plum, Black plum)
- P. × orthosepala (P. americana × P. angustifolia)
- P. subcordata (Klamath, Oregon, or Sierra plum)
- P. armeniaca (apricot) – Zone 5-9
- P. brigantina
- P. mandschurica (Manchurian apricot) – Zone 3-9
- P. mume (Chinese plum, Japanese apricot)
- P. sibirica
- The earliest mention of the Plum was by Confucius in 479 B.C.
- Plums are the second most cultivated fruit behind apples.
- There are over 140 varieties of plum sold in the United States alone, no one has a good number for the worldwide number of varieties.
- All European and European varieties of plum are “freestone” meaning the flesh easily separates from the pit.
- Oriental or Japanese plums and their hybrids are “clingstone” meaning the flesh clings to the pit.
- The plum skin is responsible for the stimulation of bowel movements.
- Fresh eating
- Dried (Prunes!) – plums dry best when halved and de-stoned (the large pit removed)
- Jams, Jellies, Preserves
- Baked, Poached, Cooked, Grilled
- Baked goods (like pies!)
- Saladito – dried and salted prunes
- Brandy (distilled Plum Wine) – most commonly called Slivovitz
- Plum Jerkum (cider-like alcoholic beverage)
- Scent – fragrant, beautiful blossoms
- Food and shelter for wildlife
- General insect nectar source
- Can be coppiced
- Stabilizing banks and gullies – less domesticated plants can tolerate flooding and their shallow, spreading roots and suckers minimize erosion
- Skins and Roots of some plants can be used to make a red or purple dye
- Dwarf: 0.5 – 1 bushel (18-35 liters)
- Standard: 1-2 bushels (35-70 liters)
Harvest when ripe (slightly soft to the touch) and easily part from the stem . July – October depending on the species and variety
Ripe plums do not store fresh for long. Hard, unripe plums can be stored in a loosely closed paper bag for a few days until soft. When ripe, the plums can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days as well.
- Years to Begin Bearing: 2-6 years, depends on the rootstock. Smaller adult plants will bear sooner.
- Years to Maximum Bearing: 4-8 years
- Years of Useful Life: Can be almost indefinite if old wood is removed and new shoots allowed to mature, but otherwise plums are not very long-lived trees.
Moths, rather moth larvae, can cause significant damage to plums. Encourage predators of moths (like Bats) and moth larvae (like Ichneumon Wasps, Trichogramma Wasps, etc.). Bacterial canker can also be problematic in humid climates, so chose varieties that are resistant to bacterial canker.
Typically with grafting. Will need at least 13 weeks stratification (cold, moist conditions) for seeds to germinate.
Because plums are tip bearers, meaning they bear fruit at the ends of new growth branches (spurs), minimal pruning is required. Oriental Plums are tip bearers, but they will also bear fruit on one year old spurs. Pruning should be done in summer to early fall. May need some thinning of fruit, because a branch laden with heavy fruit may break under the weight. Pruning to created shorter branches can also prevent limb breaking.
- Many varieties of plums have thorns. This can be a good thing if you are trying to make a hedge. Many of the hybrids do not have them.
- Spreading nature. Again, this can be a good thing if you are using the plum as a windbreak or slope stabilizer. Some pruning of stray suckers may be needed if you want to avoid this.
- Pits (seeds) and leaves contain cyanide. All Prunus species (plums, cherries, peaches, almonds) contain cyanide. The concentration is much lower in plums, but it is still present.