The American Plum - Prunus americana is best recognized by the combination of flaking scaly bark, sharply toothed leaf margins and red or yellow fruit. It is a deciduous shrub or small tree that is capable of reaching heights of around 25 feet. Generally it grows in an erect form with a single trunk, the young shoots are often thorn tipped.
Image Citation: Vern Wilkins, Indiana University, Bugwood.org
The bark is smooth and reddish brown with horizontal lenticels that becomes tan, buff or grey with age. The leaves are alternate, simple, elliptical, and oblong with a rounded base. They are green in color with a hairless upper and lower surfaces, and blades that are 4-12 cm long. The flower is generally 20-25 mm in diameter with 5 petals. Generally the flowers are white in color and may become pink with age, they appear in Mid Spring to Early Summer. The fruit is a rounded or ellipsoid, red, orange, or yellow drupe. The fruit appears in late summer and is often glaucous with a white waxy blush on the surface.
Image Citation: Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org
The American Plum is native throughout the Eastern United States and continuing West through the Rocky Mountain region. It prefers rich, moist, loamy soils, open woods, woodland margins, fenceline and stream banks. American Plum is sometimes considered to be thicket forming in woodland areas, though it is believed these thickets are formed by seedlings rather then root suckers. American Plum can be found at most nurseries in the native region. Currently there are over 260 varieties that have been developed from the American Plum which greatly improve the reach of it's growth range.
Image Citation: T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org