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How To Identify Wild Plums Prunus americana Identification

How to Identify Wild Plums

American plum

Characteristics and Range[]

Prunus americana (wild plums) is the most widely distributed species of plum in North America. It is part of the Rosaceae family (rose family), which also is compromised of the apple, apricot, and peach (Encylopedia Brittanica, 2013). It is mainly found in the Midwest and Eastern region of the United States, but can be found all the way up tp southern Quebec in Canada. It is typically a woodland species, found growing in mixed hardwood communities. It is typically a shrubby plant, but can grow into a small tree in the right growing conditions. It is a decidious tree with fragrant blooms in the spring that grow into yellow or red fruits (Prunus americana, 2013). 

History and Evolution []

Ripe fruits of the wild plum were recorded as being eaten by idigenous people when European settlers first came to North America. Prunus nigra (black plums) were even assumed to be cultivated by Mi'kmaq. Wild plums were widely used by early explorers and early settlers as well (Turner, 2012). When varieties that settlers brought with them from the Old World were crossed with the native species in America it gave rise to a vast quantity of plum species. Plums now have the most variety of species of any of the stone fruits. Today as it was in the past, plums are used as dessert fruits, baked into compotes and jams, as well as used in a vareity of baked goods (Encylopedia Brittanica, 2013). 

Plum. 2013. Encylopedia Brittanica. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/465013/plum

Prunus americana. 2013. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/shrub/pruame/all.html#44

Turner, N., & von Aderkas, P. (2012). Sustained by First Nations: European newcomers' use of Indigenous plant foods in temperate North America. Acta Societatis Botanicorum Poloniae81(4), 295-315. doi:10.5586/asbp.2012.038