Janna Beckerman, Assistant
Professor of Plant Pathology, Purdue University
Flowering plum (Prunus spp.)
trees are popular, ornamental landscape plants. These trees have
been selected for their flowers, as opposed for their fruit production.
For this reason, fruit development is rare, and can cause surprise
and confusion in the homeowner that wasn’t expecting fruit,
as was the case of this homeowner (Figure 1-3). Furthermore, in
the Midwest, late spring frosts often kill early flowers, preventing
fruit production. As ornamental trees, many of these plants are
selected for their dark foliage and pink flowers, or for their
dwarf, pendent or weeping forms. Flowering plum trees are among
the earliest bloomers in the spring, usually mid to late April.
The single or double flowers appear on the branches before the
leaves emerge, and are often sweetly fragrant. Each flower is about ¾ inch
wide and depending on the variety, and may be white or pink. However,
this early blooming is often the reason fruit production fails
The name of this variety, purchased almost a decade ago and only
fruiting this year, is unknown, but suspected to be P. salicina or
a P. salicina hybrid, possibly ‘Burbank.’ P.
salicina is a small deciduous tree
native to China.
This plum, like ‘Burbank’, is a natural semi-dwarf cultivar.
The fruit, red in color with a deep yellow flesh has a very good
flavor. The plum is semi-freestone, which means it partially separates
from the pit, but not as well as a true freestone plum. Sometimes
called ‘Satsuma plum’, P. salicina should
not be confused with the Ume, the Japanese name for P. mume,
a related species of plum (but called Japanese apricot or Chinese
plum) also grown in Japan, Korea, and China; or P. japonica,
the Korean cherry. Most flowering plums in the Midwest are Japanese
flowering plums (P. cerasifera).
Special thanks to Ed Fackler, for assisting in the identification
of this tree!
Click image to enlarge