Wild Plum Tree (Prunus Americana)

Wild plum trees are small, multi-trunked trees. The wild plum, or Prunus Americana, is known as the American plum and is indigenous to North America. These deciduous trees grow wild in the central and eastern portions of the United States. They can grow to a maximum height and width of 20 feet, and often appear more like a shrub. The branches of the tree are thin and covered with long thorns that grow up to 3 inches. Wild plum trees bloom in the spring with a profusion of small, white flowers, making them highly desirable for home gardeners who want a showy spring ornamental. The leaves are between 1 and 2 inches long and are a true green color. In the fall, the foliage of the wild plum tree changes from green to gold.

The Wild Plum is a stoned fruit tree in the genus Prunus and a member of the Rosaceae (rose) family. Like all plums it is distinguished by the shoots having a terminal bud and the side buds solitary (not clustered), the flowers being grouped 1—5 together on short stems, and the fruit having a groove running down one side, and a smooth stone.

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The wild plum tree is found on many hedgerows throughout Britain and is believed to be a wild cross between the Blackthon Prunus spinosa and the cherry plum Prunus cerasifolia. The tree is rather dense in structure, reminiscent of the blackthorn and grows to about 6m in height. Its leaves are dark green, alternate, oval and toothed. It produces masses of white flowers in clusters of two or three between March and May. The fruit develop from these and are usually ripe by the end of September. The fruit themselves are about 3cm long and dark purple in colour. The fresh is green, juicy and slightly sweet when fully ripe.

SEE ALSO:   Winter Trees: Chamaecyparis, Cupressocyparis And Cupressus

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Wild plum trees are easy to grow from seeds. They tolerate dry conditions and require little to no maintenance in order to thrive and spread when grown in their native habitat. The shrub provides cover for birds and other wildlife, and is food for many animals including deer, squirrels, bears, raccoons, and birds.


The American plum is used for both ornamental and culinary purposes. The white flowers are decorative in spring and its short, single leader makes it a popular residential landscape tree. Farms use medium to tall shrubs or trees for windbreaks, and highway or riverside plantings. Its high density of growth effectively reduces the wind velocity near the ground. Development of suckers from the root system makes American plum effective in stabilizing stream banks and gullies. It will tolerate several days of flooding. Some commercial properties plant the trees along the entrance road.


Wild plum trees often suffer from tent caterpillars, which can cover the tree with their webs and defoliate it (eat all the leaves). Spraying the tree with an insecticide at the first sign of caterpillar activity may reduce the infestation. These trees also produce a large amount of suckers (branches that grow from the roots of the tree), which should be pruned off immediately. Finally, the thorns can be a concern, especially if young children play around the tree.

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