Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Prunus nigra

When given a choice, I use native species in plantings that will receive less care. This is a mixed planting of plums. American plum on the left and a slender Canadian plum on the right.

There are two wild plum species in Michigan.

Botanists will argue otherwise. They classify a large number of native, Michigan species with cherry-sized (and smaller) fruits as plums. But you have to recall that botanists also consider the pumpkin to be a berry.

The two species are American plum, also known as Prunus americana and the Canadian Plum, aka Prunus nigra.

I have always considered the two species to be so closely related that differentiating between them was a non-valued added task. I taste the wild fruit and I either spit it out or mark the tree for collecting scionwood at a later date.

The botanical differences are tiny. The Canadian plums have more gland-like growths on the leaf stem than the American plum. The Canadian plum is more likely to stay in tree-form than to create a thicket which makes the Canadian plum a better rootstock.

A locally collected P. nigra in the foreground and framing the P. americana "South Dakota" cultivar in background.

One other minor difference is that P. nigra often has pink tinted blossoms vs. P. americana's white-with-green tint.

I collected scion from several plums that were the elusive "not spitters" in northwestern Eaton County a few years ago. This is the first year these grafts blossomed in abundance. With any luck, I will have a crop of plums from these trees.

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