American Plum (Prunus americana), also known as Wild Plum, is present throughout all of Ohio, and is native to most of the eastern and central United States. Its white, pungently sweet blossoms emerge in early spring before the foliage breaks bud. It easily forms colonies and thickets in fields, fence rows, and along roadsides and woodland edges, where its suckers from roots and its germinated seeds create a mass planting similar in mounded appearance to that of wild Sumacs and Crabapples.
Its fruits are sweet when fully ripe, and make excellent jelly or jam due to their high pectin and high acid content. American Plum reaches 20 feet tall by 25 feet wide as an individual specimen under optimum conditions, but forms thickets of indeterminate width with time. As a member of the Rose Family, it is related to the Serviceberries, Chokeberries, Hawthorns, Crabapples, Cherries, Pears, and Roses, as well as other Plum species and hybrids.
Planting Requirements - American Plum, like many members of the Rose Family, is very adaptable to a wide variety of environmental conditions, including soils that are rich, average, poor, or rocky, and of acidic, neutral, or alkaline pH. This species likes moist, well-drained soils, tolerates drier soils, and thrives on neglect in full sun. American Plum is found in zones 3 to 8.
Potential Problems - American Plum, like all members of the Rose Family, is prone to a host of diseases and pests, which primarily affect the foliage and fruits.
Identifying Features - American Plum
American Plum has alternate leaves that vary in their shape (ovate, oblong, elliptical, or obovate) and pubescence (smooth or somewhat hairy), but all are sharply serrated. Autumn foliage color may have elements of yellow, orange, and red, but usually it is green to chartreuse.
American Plum has white flowers in early spring on the leafless branches, and their scent varies in interpretation from sweet to pungent.
The perfect flowers form oblong fruits about one inch long, with a light green initial color that transitions to either a red or yellow outer coloration when ripe, and an inner golden flesh that is sweet when overripe, containing several seeds.
American Plum has thick twigs with thorny branches in its canopy, and tends to strongly sucker from the roots, forming thickets.
Young bark is smooth, shiny, and brown, while mature bark on the single-trunked or multi-trunked trees is scaly and gray-brown.