American Plum, Prunus americana, is a small, deciduous, native, single trunk tree or multi-stemmed shrub that naturally occurs in rocky or sandy soils in woodlands, old fields and hedgerows. Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. As a tree, this species typically grows 10-20 ft. tall with a broad, spreading crown. However, as a shrub it can sucker freely and form large colonies, so pruning suckers can help prevent unwanted spread and train it to be a small tree. Fragrant, white flowers in showy, flat-topped clusters appear in early spring before the leaves and are a magnet for pollinators. The fruit that follows ripens to a shiny, bright red in August or September and are eaten fresh or used in jellies and preserves; they are also a food staple for songbirds in late summer. The short, crooked trunk has a graceful, open crown with a scaly, black bark that provides seasonal interest. In fall, the foliage ranges from a bright red to pale yellow. A handsome, native ornamental with large flowers and relatively big fruit, American Plum is also utilized for erosion control by utilizing its naturally spreading root sprouts. This species is also a significant larval host for an array of butterflies including, Coral Hairstreak, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Spring Azure, Viceroy, and Red-spotted Purple butterflies. In addition to songbirds, the fruits are often consumed by wild turkeys, quail, white-tailed deer, and small mammals.
Photo: G.D. Bebeau, Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.