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Published In: Arbustrum Americanum 111. 1785. (Arbust. Amer.) Name publication detailView in Biodiversity Heritage Library

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 9/22/2017)
Acceptance : Accepted
Project Data     (Last Modified On 7/9/2009)
Status: Native


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1. Prunus americana Marshall (wild plum)

P. americana var. lanata Sudw.

Pl. 536 c; Map 2471

Plants shrubs, 2–5 m tall, or less commonly small trees to 8 m tall, usually strongly suckering to form dense thickets. Branches moderately thorny. Twigs usually short-hairy, occasionally glabrous, producing pseudoterminal winter buds (these usually in a cluster of 2 or 3 at the tip). Petioles 4–19 mm, usually hairy only on the upper side, occasionally glabrous, rarely hairy on all sides, usually lacking glands, but occasionally with 1 or 2 disclike glands near the tip. Leaf blades 5–11 cm long, 2.0–5.5 cm wide, mostly 2 or more times as long as wide, elliptic to broadly elliptic or obovate, rarely ovate, flat to slightly concave at maturity, not keeled along the midvein, angled to broadly angled or infrequently rounded at the base, abruptly short-tapered to tapered at the sharply pointed tip, rarely, merely angled, the margins coarsely and doubly toothed, the relatively straight teeth sharply pointed, lacking glandular tips, the upper surface glabrous to appressed-hairy, the undersurface glabrous except along the midvein or occasionally glabrous or more evenly short-hairy. Inflorescences produced before or as the leaves develop, umbellate clusters of 2–5 flowers per bud, the flower stalks (4–)8–20 mm long, glabrous or less commonly hairy. Flowers with the hypanthium 2.5–5.0 mm long, conic, usually glabrous but occasionally sparsely to densely hairy. Sepals 2–4(–5) mm long, spreading to reflexed at flowering, lanceolate to ovate, the margins hairy, entire or sparsely glandular-toothed toward the tip, the inner surface densely woolly, the outer surface glabrous to moderately short-hairy. Petals 7–15 mm long, oval to oblong-obovate, white. Fruits 15–30 mm long, subglobose to ellipsoid, shallowly longitudinally grooved on 1 side, the surface red, orange, or yellowish orange, glabrous, somewhat glaucous, the fleshy layer well-developed, the stone ovoid, strongly flattened, the surface veiny or slightly wrinkled. 2n=16. April–May.

Scattered to common nearly throughout the state, but relatively uncommon in the northwestern portion (nearly throughout the U.S. [except Texas and some southwestern states]; Canada). Banks of streams, rivers, and spring branches, mesic upland forests, margins of sinkhole ponds, bases and tops of bluffs, and edges of glades; also pastures, old fields, fencerows, railroads, and roadsides.

This widespread, native species is sometimes planted as an ornamental or for wildlife. Steyermark (1963) noted that it is one of the earliest-flowering woody species in native woodlands. A number of cultivars exist, but the usually strongly colonial habit allows plantings to spread too aggressively for small gardens.

The key characters serve to separate the majority of specimens in the state, but occasional plants appear intermediate between P. americana and other plum species. Shaw and Small (2005), who studied the geography of molecular markers in this group, suggested that periodic hybridization contributes to these problems. In Missouri, there are particular problems with the separation of P. americana from the closely related P. mexicana (Rohrer et al., 2004). These are reasonably distinct in most other parts of their strongly overlapping ranges. Steyermark (1963) noted that although P. americana is usually found as a colonial shrub or small tree, sometimes isolated, single-trunked small trees are encountered that key to this species. Conversely, although P. mexicana tends not to produce abundant root suckers, occasionally it forms thickets. Both species can produce individuals with hairy leaves and twigs.



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