Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

Wild Plum has attractive flowers during the spring and attractive fruits during the fall. However, the leaves and fruits are occasionally disfigured by insects and disease. There are several plum species in Illinois. They differ from each other primarily in the appearance of their leaves and the characteristics of their sepals. For example, the leaves of Prunus nigra (Canada Plum) are more broad than those of Wild Plum, while the leaves of Prunus angustifolia (Chickasaw Plum) are more narrow. Wild Cherries are also Prunus spp., but their fruits are smaller in size (less than ½" across) and they are distributed primarily by birds, rather than mammals. There is a variety of Wild Plum that has leaves with pubescent undersides. It is referred to as Prunus americana lanata (Hairy Wild Plum). The typical variety has leaves with hairless undersides.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This native plant is a small tree up to 25' tall. It has a stout short trunk and widely spreading to ascending branches. The trunk is up to 12" in diameter and it has rough grey bark. The bark of the larger branches is grey and smooth, except for some small lateral lesions. The bark of the smaller branches is greyish brown, smooth, and hairless. The smaller branches are rather contorted in their growth habit, and they have small stout twigs or spines. The alternate leaves are up to 4" long and 1¾" across; they are medium to dark green, ovate to obovate, hairless, and serrate or doubly serrate along their margins. The bottom of each leaf is rounded, while its tip is somewhat elongated. The upper surface of each leaf is slightly wrinkled in appearance, rather than smooth. The slender petioles of the leaves are about ½–¾" long and hairless. At the axils of the leaves, there occasionally develops umbels of 2-6 flowers. Each flower is about ¾–1" across, consisting of 5 white rounded petals, 5 green sepals, a pistil with a prominent style, and numerous stamens. The sepals are much smaller than the petals; they are linear-lanceolate, smooth along the margins, hairless on the outside, and pubescent on the inside. The slender petioles of the flowers are about ½–1" long and hairless. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late spring for about 2 weeks; this usually happens before the leaves unfurl. The flowers have a pleasant fragrance. Fertilized flowers often develop into fleshy fruits that are globoid and about 1" across. These fruits are initially green, but they later become yellow or red (usually the latter) when they are fully ripened during the fall. The skin of each fruit is glaucous. The pulp of each fruit is fleshy and juicy; it becomes sweet when the fruit is fully mature. At the center of each fruit, there is a single large stone (a seed with a thick hard coat). This stone is ovoid and somewhat flattened, tapering at both ends. The root system is woody and branching; sometimes new saplings are produced from underground runners. Cultivation
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

General: Rose Family (Rosaceae). Wild plum (Prunus americana) is a shrub or small tree 3-8 m (3-24 ft) tall, and are usually forming thickets. The small branches are sometimes spiny. The leaves are alternate, egg-shaped to oval, 6-10 cm (2-4 in) long. The upper leaf surface is shiny green and the lower surface is slightly hairy; leaf margins are sharply toothed. The white roseaceous flowers are in-groups of 2-5 at the ends of branchlets. Flowers usually appear before the leaves in April and May. There are five separate, oval petals 8-12 mm (5/16-1/2 in) long. The reddish-purple plums are fleshy, oval, 2.0-2.7 cm (0.75-1.25 in) long; each fruit contains one seed. Wild plum flowers are insect pollinated.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & Missouri State Office

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Alternative names

American plum, American wild plum, sandhill plum, Osage plum, river plum, sand cherry, thorn plum, wild yellow plum, red plum, August plum, goose plum, hog plum, and sloe

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & Missouri State Office

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Wild Plum is occasional to locally common throughout Illinois (see Distribution Map). This is probably the most common plum species in the state. Habitats include mesic woodlands, woodland borders, savannas, thickets, powerline clearances in wooded areas, and fence rows. This species benefits from occasional disturbance in wooded areas as it is unable to compete with larger canopy trees. For some reason, this species is not often cultivated.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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American plum is the most broadly distributed wild plum in North America [41,75]. It occurs from southern Saskatchewan east to southern Quebec and southern Maine and south to Arizona and central Florida [70,82,106,125]. Its core distribution extends from Minnesota east to Rhode Island and south to central Oklahoma and north-central Florida. Populations become increasingly isolated outside this core area [105], with extremely isolated plants in Washington [82]. American plum is native to North America, but its native range is unclear. Its core range may approximate its distribution before European settlement [41]. Human plantings have expanded American plum distribution; American plum is often planted outside its core range [40,104] and sometimes escapes cultivation [70,104,182]. It is likely nonnative in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, and Texas (review by [46]). Some claim American plum does not occur in Texas [82,105], but it has been documented in East Texas [183] and has been planted and has probably established elsewhere in the state (review by [46]). American plum is nonnative in Quebec [125] and likely in other Canadian locations [70]. Native Americans may have introduced American plum in the Great Plains before European settlement ([90], review by [46]). American plum's native status is uncertain in the Intermountain West [27]. Pioneers introduced American plum in Utah, but American plum may have already been present in some parts of the state [187]. The US Geological Survey provides a map of American plum's North American distribution.

American plum is planted in temperate regions throughout the world, and has likely established outside North America [46].

Prunus × orthopsepala occurs in Kansas [82].

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For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site. The range is from Massachusetts west to Manitoba and Montana, south to Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma, east to Florida, and north to New York (Stephens 1975).

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Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the terms: shrub, shrubs, tree

This description covers characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology and is not meant for identification. Keys for identification are available (for example, [53,68,137,162,193]). Morris and others [122] provide a key for identifying American plum and other shrubs in winter.

Morphology of woody parts: American plum's form is usually shrubby [70,186,187], but it may grow as a small tree. It ranges from 3.3 to 33 feet (1-10 m) tall [69,90,157,165] tall. It is likely to grow tallest and assume tree form in its southern distribution [76]. American plum usually grows as a small, single-stemmed tree in southern Alabama, Georgia, and Florida [53]. American plum trees have short, crooked trunks with stiff lateral branches that form wide, flat-topped, irregular crowns [70]. Tree trunks may reach 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter [70]. Crowns are spreading [37]. The national champion tree is 18 feet (5.5 m) tall, 3.8 feet (1.1 m) in diameter, and 18 feet in spread; it grows in Fairfax County, Virginia [5]. American plum wood is moderately heavy and hard [46,70,104]. Bark is "moderately" thick [115]. Some to all [31,33,58] branches are spurred [31,69,114,187], becoming more so with age [46]. Bottom branches typically grow low to the ground [46]. American plum is commonly infected with a fungus that produces black swellings on the twigs [186]. Root structure is not well known for American plum [117]. A few researchers found American plum had shallow [90,117,159], spreading [159] roots. A root-profile study of clay prairie soils in Fargo, North Dakota, found most American plum roots were in the 1st foot (0.3 m, 40% of roots) or 2nd foot (0.6 m; 33% of roots) of soil. Maximum root depth was 6 feet (2 m) [195]. A 15-year-old shrub in eastern Nebraska had roots extending 2.5 feet (0.8 m) deep. Lateral roots ranged from 2.5 to 11 feet (3 m) long [159].

Leaves and reproductive structures: American plum is deciduous [150]. Leaves are narrow with sharp teeth; they are 3 to 5 inches (8-13 cm) long [70]. Flowers and fruits grow on short spur shoots [68]. The inflorescence is an umbel with 2 to 4 flowers [27,69,114,157,187]. The flowers are strongly fragrant [53,90,157] and showy, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) across [70]. Fruits are yellow or red drupes [27,52,53,69,137,157], 0.8 to 1.3 inches (2.0-3.2 cm) in diameter [157]. They may be solitary or in clusters [157]. The seed is a smooth, compressed stone [27,114,157].

Stand structure and age class: American plum often forms thickets [31,46,69,74,104,137,157,186,187] that are sometimes dense [104,160]. Structure of American plum stands along moist areas in eastern Colorado has been described as "dense, almost impenetrable thickets" in a "dense, thorny mass" [83]. American plum thickets in Kansas are up to 35 feet (m) wide [81]. Thickets spread from root sprouts.

American plum is short-lived [167]. Shrubs in Nevada live about 20 years (Cristner 1966 personal communication in [160]). Because American plum clones, American plum thickets can persist long after the original parent stems have died [46,48].

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Wild Plum is occasional to locally common throughout Illinois (see Distribution Map). This is probably the most common plum species in the state. Habitats include mesic woodlands, woodland borders, savannas, thickets, powerline clearances in wooded areas, and fence rows. This species benefits from occasional disturbance in wooded areas as it is unable to compete with larger canopy trees. For some reason, this species is not often cultivated.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Habitat characteristics

More info for the term: mesic

Soils: Soils supporting American plum are generally nutrient-rich [70] and deep (review by [152]).

Texture and chemistry: American plum prefers medium- to coarse-textured, acidic to mildly alkaline soils [65]. It grows in sandy to loamy soils in the Intermountain West (review by [152]) and sandy loams and fine sandy loams in the Great Lakes states [85]. In southeastern Michigan, it grows in coarse-textured, well-drained soils [6,33,182]. It grows in rich, often calcareous loams in the Southeast. A laboratory test found American plum seeds were moderately tolerant of alkaline conditions [164]. Some report American plum as slightly tolerant of saline soils (review by [152]); however, a laboratory study found American plum seedlings watered with a nutrient solution with salt showed poor survivorship compared to seedlings watered with a nutrient solution without salt. The authors recommend against growing American plum in saline soils [173].

American plum is reported on alluvium in Ontario [157].

Moisture: American plum grows on sites receiving at least 16 inches (40 cm) of annual precipitation (review by [152]). In the arid West, American plum is mostly restricted to mesic and moist areas including riparian zones [31,112,114], ditch banks, moist field edges, and moist foothills [86,104,116,119,122,150]. It is reported on mesic areas such as drainages in Fort Union Basin, Wyoming [35]. American plum occurs in ravines, coulees, and drainages in Great Plains shrublands of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area ([86], review by [46]). Weaver [184] found that in Nebraska, shrubland sites with and without American plum had higher percentages of soil moisture, higher humidities, and lower summer temperatures than prairie sites. In eastern North America, American plum grows most often on moist sites [52]. It is reported on moist sites in Ontario [157]. In Florida, it grows on mesic hammocks and floodplains [194].

In areas with high average annual precipitation, American plum sometimes occurs on sites that dry in summer. In southeastern Michigan, American plum is an indicator species of very dry black oak sites [6]. It grows on moist to dry areas in the Pacific Northwest [69] but is more common on moist sites [13,33,52,112].

Topography and elevation: Topography on sites with American plum may be flat to steep. American plum is distributed from the plains to low mountains in the Pacific Northwest [68,69]. It is common in canyons in the Black Hills [31]. In the Great Plains, it grows in draws [185] and sheltered depressions within prairies [76]. It grows on slopes and outwash mesas and in gullies and valleys in Colorado [58,186] and New Mexico [114].

Few elevational ranges were reported for American plum as of 2010. It grows at high elevations in the Southwest.

Area Range (feet)
Colorado 3,500-6,000 [58]
Arizona 5,000-7,200 feet [104]
New Mexico 4,000-7,500 [104,114]
Appalachians ≥3,600 [33]

Climate: American plum has good cold tolerance [152] but cannot withstand prolonged drought [184]. Its distribution extends into the -40 to -30 °F (-40 to -30 °C) cold-hardiness zone [40,73]. In a Minnesota common garden, American plum cultivars were the most cold-hardy among 7 Prunus species or hybrids. The minimum temperature used to induce flower bud drop in the Prunus collection, -21 °F (-29 °C), caused no damage to American plum flower buds [32]. American plum seedlings showed poor survivorship when transplanted on dry sites during the "Dust Bowl" drought of the 1930s [48].

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Key Plant Community Associations

More info for the terms: association, codominant, consocies, formation, frequency, hardwood, mesic, shrub, shrubs, swamp, tree

American plum is mostly a woodland species, growing in mixed-hardwood communities and on woodland ecotones [112,157,182]. It also grows in shrublands and rarely, on open prairies. It often establishes in riparian zones [29,182]. It occurs on stream [31,58,70,114,157,182], pond, and lake boarders [182] and on swamp ecotones [70].

Midwest:

Woodlands:
American plum is common in oak (Quercus spp.) woodlands and savannas. It occurs in black oak-New Jersey tea (Q. velutina-Ceanothus americanus) communities of southeastern Michigan [6] and in post oak-blackjack oak (Q. stellata-Q. marilandica) woodlands of the Northeast and Great Plains [146]. An 1846 account of Illinois vegetation noted American plum in blackjack oak-black oak-big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) savannas but not in woodlands or on open prairies [129]. American plum is a common understory species in bur oak (Q. macrocarpa) woodlands [34]. A1927 survey in the Black Hills of South Dakota showed American plum was subdominant in the bur oak-skunkbush sumac-smooth sumac (Rhus trilobata-R. glabra) montane association on the eastern foothills; the bur oak woodland was between lower-elevation mixed-grass prairie and higher-elevation interior ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum) forest. These bur oak woodlands occurred in discontinuous bands along streams and in valleys [62]. On the Konza Prairie of Kansas, American plum grows in the understories of bur oak-chinkapin oak-American elm (Q. muehlenbergii-Ulmus americana) woodlands [47]. It occurs in oak-hickory forests of eastern Nebraska [185] and is an associated species in bur oak-bitternut hickory (Carya
cordiformis) communities along the Missouri River [4].
American plum occurs in elm-ash-cottonwood (Ulmus-Fraxinus-Populus spp.) draws within and bordering short-, mixed- [12,13,51,76], and tallgrass [76,129] prairies. It is common in green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)-American elm woodlands in the Northern Prairie region [23]. In eastern Montana, it is a component in tall shrub layer of white ash/chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) upland-hardwood associations [100,101]. American plum occurs in American elm-bur oak/fireberry hawthorn (Crataegus chrysocarpa var. chrysocarpa) communities of the Williston Basin, North Dakota [12] and in green ash-American elm-boxelder (Acer negundo) communities along the Big Sioux River in South Dakota [29].
In Nebraska, it grows on the margins of cottonwood/willow (Salix spp.) gallery forests [185].
American plum grows in quaking aspen (P. tremuloides) communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin [85].
American plum grows in a few conifer woodlands. A late 1800s survey in Nebraska found American plum was associated with interior ponderosa pine-eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)-bur oak communities in canyons and along rivers [17]. American plum is also an associated species in Rocky Mountain juniper (J. scopulorum) woodlands in some parts of Rocky Mountain juniper's range ([179], review by [66]).
Shrublands:
American plum is common to dominant in woody-draw shrublands of the Great Plains [185]. In Lory State Park in western Colorado, American plum was codominant in "very dense" thickets along draws. Fragrant sumac (R. aromatica), cerro hawthorn (C. erythropoda), and chokecherry also codominated [88]. In eastern Nebraska, American plum was subdominant in smooth sumac-American hazel (R. glabra-Corylus americana) communities. These communities occur along wooded draws of the Missouri and Niobrara rivers [4]. Nebraska shrublands vary from a few yards to more than 0.5 mile (0.8 m) wide. Shrubs may finger into the understory of adjacent oak-hickory (Quercus-Carya spp.) forests in the eastern Great Plains [184,185].
Prairies:
American plum is sometimes important in mixed wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass (Tritiacea-Andropogonacea-Stipeae) prairies of the Great Plains [189], but it is generally infrequent on open grasslands (see Successional Status).
Other regions:

American plum is less common in the Intermountain, northeastern, and southeastern regions than in the Great Plains. In the Intermountain region, American plum grows on deep, moist soils within mountain brush [121,152], pinyon-juniper (Pinus-Juniperus spp.), and sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) zones (review by [152]. As of 2010, there was little information on specific plant communities of the Northeast and Appalachian regions with which American plum is associated. American plum is associated
with Shumard oak (Q. shumardii) "shinneries" on the Atlantic Coastal Plain [108]. In the Southeast, it grows in mesic hammocks and on floodplains [53,194]. Information on historical frequency of American plum in southeastern pine
(Pinus spp.) and hardwood forests is sparse. Surveys by early settlers in longleaf pine (P. palustris) forests of Alabama found American plum comprised less than 1% of the tree subcanopy. American plum's occurrence as a shrub was not noted [135]. Surveys in the early 1900s in northern Florida reported American plum as rare in upland oak-gum (Quercus-Nyssa
spp.) hardwood forests [149].
Vegetation classifications listing American plum as a dominant species are listed below.
Montana

  • mixed American plum-chokecherry-rose-snowberry (Rosa spp.-Symphoricarpos spp.) Great Plains
    shrublands of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area [86]

  • green ash-box elder/fleshy hawthorn (C. succulenta)-American plum vegetation types in drainages of Custer
    National Forest [78]
Wyoming

  • mixed American plum-chokecherry-rose-snowberry Great Plains shrublands of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation area [86]
Minnesota

  • mixed-shrub thickets forming marginal
    consocies
    at shrubland-prairie ecotones in northwestern Minnesota [39]
Colorado

  • tall upland shrub American plum-cerro hawthorn-chokecherry communities of the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site
    in northern Colorado; occurs in seeps on steep hillsides [116]

  • canyon deciduous-forest and mixed-shrub associations of the Front Range foothills [180]
Nevada

  • American plum [132] and chokecherry-American plum [126] shrubland
    alliances
Texas

  • sand post oak-littlehip hawthorn (Q. margaretta-C. spathulata)-American plum formation on forest-prairie
    ecotones with neutral soils; in East Texas [183]

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Dispersal

Establishment

Adaptation: Wild plum grows in prairies, woodlands, pastures, and along roadsides and riverbanks.

Wild plums can be planted from seed and they are relatively easy to transplant. Plant in well drained soil; wild plum tolerates shade. Flowering occurs in April and May and fruit ripens from August to September. The plant has fruit every year.

Propagation from Cuttings: Prunus americana cuttings are not easy to root. Hardwood cuttings taken in late January have been rooted. Hardwood cuttings are those made of matured, dormant hardwood after leaves have abscised and before new shoots emerge in the spring. Material should be taken from healthy, moderately vigorous stock plants grown in full sunlight. Central and basal portions (not the tip) of a shoot make the best cuttings. Cuttings vary from 10 to 76 cm (4 to 30 in). Ensure that at least two nodes are included in the cutting; the basal cut is just below a node and the top cut is 1.3 to 2.5 cm (0.5-1 in) above a node.

It is important that hardwood cuttings not dry out during handling and storage. Dip bases of hardwood cuttings with IBA at 20,000 ppm liquid formulation to promote rooting. Alternatively, treat with 2% IBA talc. This will promote rooting on both suckers and stem cuttings. Dip the cuttings into root promoting hormone, IBA at 2000 ppm, for a few seconds, then keep in the dark at temperatures of 10º (50ºF). Plant the cuttings in open ground in prepared holes with good potting soil. Firm the soil around the cuttings and water. To ensure survival of cuttings through the following winter in cold climates, the potted cuttings should be kept in heated cold frames or poly-houses to hold the temperature between 0-7°C (32-45°F). Rooted cuttings that had shoot growth in the fall, but were not given nitrogen, had the best over-winter survival in a cold frame with microfoam.

Propagation from Seed: Harvest the fruit in the summer when ripe (the fruit turns dark purple), usually in August. Remove the pulp or fruit from the seed. Seeds can be extracted by maceration and recovered by flotation. Put the seed in a 50ºF cooler over the winter. For prolonged storage, seeds must be air dried and stored in sealed containers at cold temperatures. The seeds can also be planted outdoors in the fall so they are naturally “cold stratified.” Natural germination occurs predominantly in the first or second year after seedfall, depending on the year.

If sowing seed in the fall, it is important to sow early enough so seeds can pre-chill before seedbeds freeze. This can be overcome by mulching the seedbeds. Seedlings reach suitable size for transplanting in one to two years. Cold stratifying up to 6 months in a moist environment can break seed dormancy. Wild plum seeds have fairly low germination. There are 6.5 seeds per gram.

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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Wild Plum in Illinois

Prunus americana (Wild Plum)
(Honeybees and short-tongued bees suck nectar or collect pollen, beetles feed on nectar or pollen, other insects suck nectar; some observations are from Krombein et al., Graenicher, and MacRae as indicated below, otherwise they are from Robertson)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn cp fq; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus impatiens sn, Bombus pensylvanica sn; Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina dupla dupla sn fq; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Synhalonia speciosa sn fq; Anthophoridae (Nomadini): Nomada denticulata sn, Nomada illinoiensis sn, Nomada integerrima sn, Nomada luteola sn, Nomada obliterata sn fq, Nomada ovatus sn, Nomada sulphurata sn, Nomada superba superba sn

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon sericea sn, Halictus confusus sn cp, Halictus rubicunda sn cp, Lasioglossum cinctipes sn, Lasioglossum imitatus sn, Lasioglossum pilosus pilosus sn cp fq, Lasioglossum pruinosus sn cp fq, Lasioglossum tegularis sn, Lasioglossum versatus sn cp fq, Lasioglossum zephyrus sn cp; Halictidae (Sphecodini): Sphecodes dichroa sn; Colletidae (Colletinae): Colletes inaequalis sn fq; Colletidae (Hylaeinae): Hylaeus mesillae sn; Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena andrenoides andrenoides sn fq (Rb, Kr), Andrena bisalicis sn, Andrena cressonii sn cp fq, Andrena erythrogaster sn fq (Rb, Kr), Andrena erythronii sn cp, Andrena fenningeri cp olg (Kr), Andrena forbesii sn (Rb, Kr), Andrena hippotes sn cp fq (Rb, Kr), Andrena illinoiensis sn fq (Rb, Kr), Andrena imitatrix imitatrix sn cp fq (Rb, Kr), Andrena mandibularis sn, Andrena miserabilis bipunctata sn cp fq, Andrena nigrae (Kr), Andrena nuda (Kr), Andrena perplexa (Kr), Andrena pruni sn, Andrena rubi (Kr), Andrena rugosa (Kr), Andrena salictaria (Kr), Andrena sayi sn cp fq, Andrena wellesleyana (Kr)

Wasps
Ichneumonidae: Lissonota scutellaris; Vespidae: Polistes fuscata

Flies
Syrphidae: Brachypalpus oarus, Chrysogaster antitheus, Eristalis anthophorina (Gr), Eristalis dimidiatus, Eupeodes americanus, Helophilus fasciatus, Orthonevra nitida, Platycheirus hyboreus, Sphaerophoria contiqua, Syrphus torvus, Toxomerus geminatus, Toxomerus marginatus fq; Empididae: Empis otiosa fq, Rhamphomyia priapulus; Bombyliidae: Bombylius major; Conopidae: Myopa vesiculosa; Tachinidae: Gonia capitata, Siphona geniculata; Sarcophagidae: Ravinia anxia; Calliphoridae: Calliphora vicina, Cynomya cadaverina, Lucilia illustris, Lucilia sericata, Phormia regina; Muscidae: Neomyia cornicina; Anthomyiidae: Calythea pratincola, Delia platura fq; Chloropidae: Diplotoxa versicolor

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Danaus plexippus, Vanessa atalanta, Vanessa virginiensis; Papilionidae: Papilio glaucus; Pieridae: Pontia protodice fq

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Erynnis juvenalis

Moths
Noctuidae: Anagrapha falcifera

Beetles
Buprestidae: Acmaeodera ornata (McR), Acmaeodera tubulus (McR); Cerambycidae: Molorchus bimaculatus; Orsodacnidae: Orsodacne atra; Scarabaeidae: Valgus canaliculatus

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Faunal Associations

The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract bees, various flies, and other insects. Bee visitors include honeybees, bumblebees, Little Carpenter bees (Ceratina spp.), Cuckoo bees (Nomada spp.), Halictid bees, and Andrenid bees (especially the latter). A variety of insects feed on the wood, bark, sap, leaves, buds, flowers, and fruits of Wild Plum. See the Insect Table for a listing of these species. The fruits are eaten by mammals primarily, especially the Red Fox and Gray Fox. These mammals help to spread the large seeds to new locations. Birds occasionally peck at the fruits, but they do not distribute the seeds. It is possible that the fruits of plums were eaten and distributed by one or more mammal species of the ice age that have become extinct.
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General Ecology

Fire Management Considerations

More info for the terms: fire exclusion, fire management, fuel, prescribed fire, shrub, shrubs

Although American plum is an unlikely woody pioneer in prairie communities, it may establish after woody pioneer species such as roughleaf dogwood have invaded prairie communities. Based on the prescribed fire and fire history studies discussed above, prescribed fires at intervals of ≤20 years may control invasion of woody species onto grasslands. Effects of fire on American plum and other woody-draw species vary with different combinations of fire frequencies, substrates, topographies, and climate [11,72]. Kucera and others [87] advise that on productive sites, prescribed fires timed at intervals that allow for "maximum" fuel buildup control woody plants in grasslands most effectively. Managers will likely find that responses of woody species, including American plum, to prescribed fires are site- and season-specific [174].

Although some woody species are invading some prairie sites, woody draws imbedded within prairies and oak/grassland communities are declining in other areas [30,50,191]; in part, this decline is likely due to fire exclusion. In white oak-black oak woodlands of the Morton Arboretum, Illinois, general decline of understory shrubs and extirpation of American plum are attributed to fire exclusion. The area was near a Potawatomie village prior to European settlement, and the Potawatomie apparently burned areas just adjacent to the village annually and areas near the village frequently [191]. In Badlands National Park, South Dakota, "most, if not all" woody draws are decadent or showing no regeneration of woody species, with attendant declines in productivity and nutritional quality of browse. American plum is a common but declining species in woody draws in the Park [30].

For wooded areas needing management intervention, prescribed fire may help open up shrub thickets or rejuvenate declining stands through postfire sprouting of woody species [150]. Restoring fire in Badlands National Park is identified as a critical management goal. Dingham and Paintner [30] recommend early spring or summer fires for wooded draws of Badlands National Park; they provide a set of fire management and monitoring goals for the area.

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Fire Regimes

More info for the terms: cover, fire exclusion, fire regime, frequency, hardwood, shrub, shrubs, succession, wildfire

Ecosystems in which American plum is most common—including oak savannas and woodlands and elm-ash and shrubland draws imbedded within prairies—historically experienced mostly low- and mixed-severity fires from approximately 4- to <100-year intervals, with intervals of less than 40 years most common [92,93,94,95,96]. Limited information suggests that oak communities [131] and woody draws within short- and tallgrass prairies [150] historically burned mostly in late summer and fall. Estimated fire-return intervals averaged 4 to 5 years for oak savannas [92,94], 5 to 11 years for oak woodlands [93,96], 55 years for oak-ash woodlands [95], and 40 to 45 years for woody draws [91]. See Habitat Types and Plant Communities for descriptions of these communities.

In the absence of fire, woody species are encroaching onto Great Plains sites that were historically grasslands ([1,39,72,143,174], review by [181]). Comparing vegetation surveys done in eastern Nebraska from the mid-1800s with surveys done from 1979 to 1983, Rothenberger [143,144] found shrubs, including American plum, that grew along the margins of bur oak-bitternut hickory communities had expanded into remnant patches of tallgrass prairie with fire exclusion. Dense American plum thickets are common in the north-central Great Plains [162]. With fire exclusion, American plum is most likely to establish in woody draws in late succession. For example, American plum has expanded onto the western edge of big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) tallgrass prairie with fire exclusion [117].

Data from the Konza Prairie demonstrate the effect of varying fire-return intervals on shrub cover in tallgrass prairie. Historically, the Konza Prairie is thought to have burned about every 4 years. Fires returned frequently enough to prevent woody species in draws from spreading onto the prairie. On little bluestem-indiangrass-big bluestem prairie, American plum did not occur on plots burned under prescription at 1-year or 4-year intervals; however, American plum seedlings had 32.5% frequency on plots that burned only once, in a wildfire, in 18 years. In 18 years of study, total shrub cover increased twice as much with 3-year fire-return intervals and on the wildfire-burned site than on the site burned annually. Burning at 4-year intervals resulted in the greatest increase in total shrub frequency (12.5%), while annual burning resulted in the smallest increase in shrub frequency (3.7%). Total shrub frequency increased by 10% after the single wildfire [63].

Historically, fires were likely less frequent in wooded draws than in oak savannas at that time because fuels in the prairie are finer, cure out earlier, and dry more quickly in response to hot, dry, windy weather than fuels in woody draws. Moister soil conditions in woody draws tends to extend the growing season past that of open prairies. Some woody draws are so steep-sided and deep that fast-moving prairie fires tend to skip over them (review by [155]). Some woody draws are in decline. Fire exclusion is likely a component of this decline [87], although grazing ([101,102], review by [84]), conversion of surrounding areas to croplands, and lowering of groundwater have also been implicated (review by [84]).

American plum is a mostly minor component in eastern hardwood and pine communities, See the Fire Regime Table for further information on FIRE REGIMES of these and other vegetation communities in which American plum may occur.

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Fuels

No quantitative information was available on this topic for American plum as of 2010. Where American plum grows in thickets, it provides continuous fuels. Live fuels in woody draws are generally moister than grass fuels in adjacent prairie (review by [155]) for much of the fire season.

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Fire adaptations and plant response to fire

More info for the terms: basal area, cover, density, fire frequency, frequency, fuel, prescribed fire, shrub, shrubs, top-kill, wildfire

Fire adaptations: American plum sprouts from its perennating root system [33,52,73,90,137,156,157,160]. Although only one study linked this regeneration strategy to fire [115], ability to sprout from the roots likely enables American plum to initially survive most fires. Long-term response of American plum to fire had not been studied as of 2010.

Plant response to fire: American plum sprouts from the roots after top-kill by fire [115,152]. Even small American plums sprout after top-kill [115]. American plum may also establish after fire from animal-dispersed seed [152] or from the seed bank [20], although postfire seedling establishment of American plum had not been documented as of 2010. American plum shows a trend of increasing after occasional fires and remaining stable or declining with frequent fires (annually or every few years).

Prairie communities: American plum apparently increased after fire in woody draws of North Dakota. Two years after a 1976 October wildfire near the Little Missouri River, North Dakota, American plum and chokecherry showed 2nd highest densities among shrubs in woody draws. Their combined density was about 5 times less than that of western snowberry. The fire burned a mosaic of green ash/western snowberry draws and western wheatgrass-little bluestem mixed-grass prairie. Overall, shrub densities in postfire year 2 were higher on burned than on unburned sites. Biomass of the 2 Prunus species was much greater on burned sites compared to unburned sites; increased biomass was due more to height gain than stem increases [196].

Mean density and estimated biomass of American plum and chokecherry 1 and 2 years after a fall 1976 wildfire. Data for the 2 species are pooled [196].
  Burned Unburned
1977 (postfire year 1)
Density (stems/m²) 5.8 no data
Biomass (g/m²) 9.5 no data
1978 (postfire year 2)
Density (stems/m²) 6.7 4.6
Biomass (g/m²) 76.5 0.3

American plum cover remained stable and low with annual prescribed spring burning in Pipestone National Monument. Over 4 years, its cover increased from 0.4% the summer after the 1st fire to 1.3% the summer after the 4th fire [9]. Comparisons with prefire cover or unburned sites were not provided.

Frequent fire may reduce frequency of American plum and other woody species in tallgrass prairies and savannas. American plum cover was negatively correlated with fire frequency (r= -0.355, P=0.258) [172] on bur oak-northern pin oak (Q. ellipsoidalis) savannas in east-central Minnesota that were burned under prescription 2 to 19 times in 20 years (1964-1984) [171,172]. This followed a general trend of decreasing woody plant cover and increasing cover of native bunchgrasses with increasing fire frequency [172]. On the University of Missouri's Prairie Research Station, a 7 April prescribed fire reduced American plum and other woody vegetation more than a 31 March prescribed fire. The site was a big bluestem-little bluestem tallgrass prairie; woody species included American plum, American elm, eastern redcedar, and Arnold hawthorn (Crataegus mollis). Maximum age of woody vegetation was at least 8 years. Conditions were warmer and drier for the April fire than the March fire, with relative humidities of 21% and 43%, respectively. The March fire was conducted when it was cloudy and humid; rain fell by the end of the day. Overall, 90% of the woody plants were killed or top-killed by the April fire compared to 40% for the March fire. The fires top-killed most American plums; the April fire killed more small American plums than the March fire [87].

Percent of American plum stems present (mean number sprouts/root crown) in postfire month 3 by fire response class for a tallgrass prairie burned on 31 March 1962 or 7 April 1962 [87]
Diameter (inches) of stems at 6 inches above ground
Fire response class 0.0.5-0.5 0.6-1.5 1.6-3.5 All size classes
  March fire April fire March fire April fire March fire April fire March fire April fire
Killed 0 0 0 6 0 0 0 6
Top-killed; sprouted 100 (10.0) 82 (4.1) 100 (6.) 94 (7.9) 0 50 (15.0) 86 86
Some surviving crowns; sprouts present or absent 0 18 (2.0) 0 0 100 (2.0) 50 14 8

Tree-dominated communities: In southeastern Missouri, a 7 May 1966 wildfire apparently favored American plum in a 23-year-old white oak-northern red oak-hickory stand that had developed after a 1943 fire. Some vegetation analysis had been conducted prior to the 1966 wildfire for woody plants ≥0.6 inch (1.5 cm) DBH; American plum was not noted on those plots. Ten years after the 1966 wildfire, American plum showed 2% frequency and a density of 64 stems/ha. American plum's basal area comprised <0.1% of total basal area. Total shrub abundance was greatest in postfire year 3, with shrub production lowering "markedly" by postfire year 5 [107].

Thinning from below followed by frequent prescribed fire reduced American plum density on an Arkansas pine plantation. The sites were on an old field planted to loblolly pine and shortleaf pine 49 years prior to the study. Sites were thinned and burned in winter, followed by annual summer prescribed fire on sites where fuel build-up and weather allowed burning. Seven years after thinning, American plum density was 41 stems/acre on burned plots and 125 stems/acre on unburned plots [24].

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Post-fire Regeneration

More info for the terms: adventitious, geophyte, ground residual colonizer, initial off-site colonizer, root crown, secondary colonizer, shrub, tree

POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY [163]:
Tall shrub, adventitious buds and a sprouting root crown
Small shrub, adventitious buds and a sprouting root crown
Tree with adventitious buds, a sprouting root crown, and root suckers
Geophyte, growing points deep in soil
Ground residual colonizer (on site, initial community)
Initial off-site colonizer (off site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer (on- or off-site seed sources)

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Immediate Effect of Fire

More info for the terms: low-severity fire, shrub, surface fire

Fire generally top-kills American plum [87], although low-severity fire may result in only partial crown kill [87]. Because bark of mature trees is "moderately" thick [115], American plums growing as trees, rather than the smaller shrub form, are probably best adapted to survive low-severity surface fire. Fire probably has little to no effect on American plum's perennating roots, which are protected by soil [87].

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

More info for the terms: cover, mesic, scoria, shrub, shrubs, succession, tree

There is much more information on American plum succession in the Great Plains than elsewhere. Further studies are needed on successional trends of American plum in its eastern and southern distributions. American plum is generally most successful on sunny, moist sites in early succession.

Light tolerance: American plum tolerates some shade but prefers full sun on sites with sufficient soil moisture. It is reported on open to wooded sites across its range [69,182]. It grows in "thin" woods in the Southeast [33]. In southeastern Michigan, it occurs in the most open, driest black oak woodlands [6]. It grows on open prairies (review by [46]) and prairie edges in mesic to moist areas. Ewing [39] identified American plum as one of the thicket-forming shrubs that form on shrubland-prairie ecotones of northwestern Minnesota.

Seral status: American plum is most common in early [87,196] to late-middle [101] succession. It is apparently rare in old-growth forests [153].

Disturbance generally favors American plum. It is common in disturbed areas such as roadsides, fencerows [33,52,53,112,182], pastures, and old fields [33]. American plum formed thickets alongside an old wagon trail in pristine big bluestem prairie in Kansas [71]. Bird-dispersed American plum seed often establishes in old fields and abandoned orchards [10]. American plum seedlings first occurred on Michigan old fields 7 years after abandonment [45]. American plum colonizes stream- and riverbanks (review by [152]), but it is generally not a floodplain colonizer [86].

Woodland and forest succession: Disturbances that favor grasses over shrubs can result in American plum decline. In white oak-black oak woodlands of the Morton Arboretum, Illinois, cattle grazing resulted in decline of the white ash overstory and the tall shrub understory, which included American plum, with attendant increases in nonnative grasses. White ash recruitment in the grass layer was poor [101,102]. See Fire Effects and Management for information on fire's role in maintaining American plum and other fire-tolerant shrubs.

American plum often persists in woodlands unless the woodland succeeds to forest. It is typically a shrub-layer component in woodlands (see Habitat Types and Plant Communities) but grows into the tree layer occasionally [155]. In green ash draws of North Dakota, American plum was about equally important in the seedling and shrub layers, ranging from about 1% to 20% cover. It did not gain access to the canopy layer [51]. American plum may persist or codominate with chokecherry, Saskatoon serviceberry, or other shrubs in nonforested woody draws in late succession in the Dakotas [150].

American plum declines with canopy closure, so it is uncommon in late succession. It is reported as occasional in late-successional northern red oak (Quercus rubra)-bitternut hickory forests with well-developed understories in Coon Valley, Wisconsin [113] and as rare in second- and old-growth white oak/flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) forests of the Missouri Ozarks [153]. In Nebraska, American plum and other understory shrubs are often suppressed in mature bur oak-bitternut hickory forests, gaining height only at forest-shrubland ecotones and in shrubby patches [184].

American plum is generally a late-seral species in riparian zones. It is often common in the elm-ash-cottonwood ecosystem, typically reported in seral elm-ash communities. However, it is rare in early-seral, floodplain cottonwood or closed-canopy elm communities (see Habitat Types and Communities). It is rare in the understories of cottonwood [141] and ash gallery forests, which develop along rivers in late successional stages (review by [84]). In ash-dominated galleries, ash generally becomes dominant in the last stages of floodplain succession, following cottonwoods and willows successionally. American plum is a component of some late-seral green ash gallery forests in the Central Great Plains (review by [84]). It also persists into late seral stages in some ash-dominated draws. On scoria buttes of western North Dakota, American plum was described as a dominant species—probably in the understory—of "postclimax" green ash-bur oak communities that formed along streambeds [80].

Grassland succession: Although American plum occurs in mesic, wooded draws in the Great Plains [4], it may be unlikely to colonize prairies where fire or other stand-replacing disturbances are excluded. In Pipestone National Monument, Minnesota, American plum occurred in small patches within a big bluestem-prairie sandreed prairie but was not among the woody species considered prairie invaders [9]. On the Konza Prairie Biological Station, a 15-year study on type conversion of tallgrass prairie to shrub-grass savanna found American plum was too infrequent for statistical analyses. Some study sites had been burned under prescription. The most successful woody invaders on both unburned and burned sites were honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos) and American elm; roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii) was also invasive on infrequently burned sites [19]. In extensive studies in Nebraska, Weaver [184] did not find American plum spreading onto prairies as an early colonizer. In eastern Nebraska, smooth sumac first invaded little bluestem-blue grama mixed-grass prairie, followed by western snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis). Although American plum was the 3rd most common member of the smooth sumac-western snowberry community, it was not reported as a grassland colonizer. The smooth sumac-western snowberry shrubland is replaced successionally by bur oak-bitternut hickory forest. In the forest community, American plum's successional status regressed from a subdominant species to an associated species. Shrubs in general were less important in the forest stage [4].

American plum's physiology and morphology (shallow roots) may prevent it from becoming an early-seral grassland invader. Studies on the Konza Prairie suggest that on prairie sites, American plum's photosynthetic gains are less than those of roughleaf dogwood, an invasive shrub, and big bluestem, the dominant grass [117]. American plum apparently competes poorly with bluestems (Andropogonacea) and smooth sumac—another invasive shrub that is invading prairies with fire exclusion—for water. On unburned sites on the Konza Prairie Biological Station, growing-season water-use efficiency and photosynthetic rates of 3 Great Plains shrubs (American plum, roughleaf dogwood, and smooth sumac) were compared to rates of little bluestem. Smooth sumac—the prairie colonizer—had water-use efficiency and photosynthetic rates closest to that of the drought-tolerant little bluestem, while American plum was not as efficient as either little bluestem or smooth sumac at either extracting soil water or at maintaining a high rate of photosynthesis throughout the growing season (P<0.05). The authors concluded that on prairies where fire is excluded, American plum is not as likely to invade as more water-use efficient shrubs such as smooth sumac and roughleaf dogwood [117]. However, American plum may establish in late-successional wooded areas within prairies where fire or stand-replacing disturbances are excluded [118,143,144]. See FIRE REGIMES for more information.

Limited evidence suggests that American plum may grow on open grasslands where there is sufficient soil moisture. American plum is unlikely to persist if the grassland succeeds to forest. In a chronosequence study of old fields in oak-pine ecosystems on the Piedmont of Georgia, American plum and other shrubs cooccurred with broomsedge bluestem (Andropogon virginicus) and other Andropogon in early succession, about 3 years after field abandonment. Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) and shortleaf pine (P. echinata) formed a closed canopy as early as 15 to 20 years after abandonment. On a 15-year-old field, American plum grew among broomsedge bluestem and other grasses, reaching 10 feet (3 m) in height. In a 25-year-old forest, American plum was a component of thickets that formed in grassy areas. It was not noted as a component of 60-year-old or older forests. One-hundred-year-old forests were dominated by shortleaf pines, and a deciduous understory had developed. After 150 to 200 years, forests had succeeded to white oak-black oak-hickory (Carya spp.) forests with an understory of dogwoods, hawthorns, and other small trees. American plum was not reported as a component of these old-growth forests [77].

Grazing: American plum may decline with sustained heavy grazing. See Other Management Considerations for details.

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Germination

More info for the terms: hypogeal, litter, pericarp, xeric

American plum seeds require a long stratification period [3,35,49,79,169], typically overwintering in the seed bank (review by [46]). American plum seeds need 60 to 150 days of moist stratification to germinate in the laboratory ([3,169], reviews by [8,46,152]). In the field, American plum seeds probably require stratification in continuously moist substrate for germination. In xeric areas, those conditions are likely only along moist drainages with litter [35].

Although animals disperse the seeds, it is unclear if ingestion, mechanical scarification of seeds, or mechanical removal of fruit aids germination. A study on the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois, showed American plum germination was reduced by passage through coyote intestinal tracts [28], but a laboratory study found that acid treatment had no effect on American plum germination rates [169]. Removing the fruit's pericarp and endocarp improved germination in one laboratory study [35] but reduced germination slightly in another [49].

Germination is hypogeal (review by [46]). Germination rates average 70% in laboratory studies ([79], review by [152]). Laboratory studies suggest that temperature requirements for germination may vary by site or population, with northern populations germinating at lower average temperatures than southern populations. American plum seeds from Minnesota showed maximum germination rates (86%) when stratified at 50 °F (10 °C) for 60 days [142], while seeds from Nebraska germinated best at 80 °F (27 °C) after 60-day stratification [169]. A review stated mineral soil provides the best seedbed for American plum [160].

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Seed banking

More info for the terms: density, frequency

American plum forms a soil seed bank [20]. In soil collected from a clearcut white ash-sugar maple (Fraxinus americana-Acer saccharum)-American plum site, American plum had a density of 8.7 seeds/m² and seed frequency of 1%. American plum seedling emergence was not tested [20]. Seeds may remain in the soil for "many years" before disturbance creates conditions favoring germination and growth (review by [46]). They remain viable about 5 years with dry storage [134].

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Seed dispersal

Frugivorous birds [10,45,152] and mammals [28] and gravity [152] disperse American plum seeds [10]. American plum's common occurrence along fencerows [33,52,53,112,182] shows evidence of bird dispersal [10]. See IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE for a list of potential animal dispersers.

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Vegetative regeneration

More info for the term: root crown

American plum spreads underground [157,187] from root sprouts [33,52,73,90,137,156,157,160,162], forming thickets [52,73,157,160,162]. American plum root sprouts may occur as much as 10 feet (3 m) from parent plants (review by [46]). American plum also sprouts from the root crown or from aerial stems [81]. Many species in the rose family sprout from roots [42,152], although root sprouting is uncommon in most plant families.

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the term: breeding system

Sprouting appears more important to American plum regeneration than seedling establishment.

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the terms: geophyte, phanerophyte

Raunkiaer [138] life form:
Phanerophyte
Geophyte

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Life Form

More info for the terms: shrub, tree

Shrub-tree

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Fire Regime Table

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Seedling establishment and plant growth

Information on conditions favoring American plum seedling establishment was not available as of 2010. Since American plum is most common on moist sites (see Site Characteristics), moist soil during early development is likely crucial.

American plum's growth rate is "moderate" [148,175] to "rapid' [167]. On coal mine spoils in Wyoming, unirrigated American plum transplants grew an average of 1.8 inches (4.5 cm)/year over 4 years [15]. In a common garden experiment in Nebraska, relative growth rates of American plum seedlings were 48% faster in sun than in shade [120].

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Seed production

Good fruit and seed crops are produced about every other year (review by [46]). On the Monongahela National Forest, American plums (n=76) produced an average of 1.8 quarts (1.7 L) of fruit/tree over 4 years, with wide variation from year to year (SD 2.6 quarts (2.5 L)/tree ). There was total crop failure in 1 of 4 years [130].

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Pollination and breeding system

Honeybees are American plum's principal pollinator (review by [46]). As of 2010, information on American plum's native pollinators was not available.

American plum does not effectively cross-pollinate with agricultural Prunus species [44].

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

American plum has a long period of winter dormancy relative to other Prunus. The flowerbud scales are large enough to permit a 2- to 3-fold expansion of primordial flowers [32]. The flowers emerge before or with the leaves [40,70,90,187] in early [32] to midspring [175]. Fruits ripen from mid- to late summer ([37], review by [152]). Seeds mature from September to early October [79]. On the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia, all fruits had dropped from trees by 8 October [35].

Phenology of American plum across its distribution
Area Event
Arkansas flowers March-April;
fruits June-October [74]
Carolinas flowers March-April;
fruits July-August [193]
Colorado flowers in May [83]
Florida flowers in spring [194]
New Mexico flowers April-May [114]
Central North Dakota flowers late April [109]
Nebraska flowers April-May [161,166]
Nevada flowers April-May (review by [160])
Utah flowers early spring-May [167];
seed ripe early September-early October [134]
Washington, DC flowers mid- to late April [170]
West Virginia flowers April-May;
fruits ripe August-September [165]
     Fort Union Basin, West Virginia flowering complete in early June;
seed ripe late July-mid-October;
peak ripeness in mid-September [35]
Blue Ridge Mountains flowers March-April [193]
North-central Great Plains flowers early April during or before leaf emergence;
fruits in August [162]
Pacific Northwest flowers April-May [69]
New England flowers mid- to late April [170]
Northeast flowers May-June [52,112]
Southeast flowers February-May [33]
Ontario flowers late April-early June;
fruits August-September [157]
southern Canada fruits late August-early September [70]

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Prunus americana

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

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American plum has conservation status in several states [125]. Information on state- and province-level protection status of American plum in the United States and Canada is available at NatureServe.

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & Missouri State Office

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Management

Management considerations

More info for the terms: cover, density, prescribed fire

American plum is intolerant of heavy browsing and trampling [103]. On green ash draws on the Missouri Plateau of South Dakota, American plum cover was greater on moderately grazed than heavily grazed cattle rangelands [50]. Five years after felling and planting of wooded draws in southwestern North Dakota, American plum was much more frequent on sites without cattle grazing (70% survival of sprouts and/or seedlings) than on grazed sites (11% survival of sprouts and/or seedlings) [177]. American plum may tolerate moderate grazing levels. In green ash draws in the Badlands of North Dakota, density of American plum saplings and trees was higher in moderately grazed plots (28.4 stems/ha) than in lightly grazed (8.2 stems/ha) or heavily grazed (1.6 stems/ha) plots. Study sites were stocked with cattle [23].

In northwestern Illinois, domestic goats were used to help control woody species on prairie remnants where prescribed fire was not feasible. The animals helped reduce many woody species, including American plum. See Blackmore [16] for details of the study
and suggestions for managing domestic goats on prairies.
Leaves of some American plum stands may become heavily infested with mite galls, and consequently grow smaller than uninfested leaves. In Wisconsin and Illinois, gall mites lowered American plum's photosynthetic leaf area an average of 38% compared to uninfested plants [192].

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Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

‘Blackhawk’, ‘Hawkeye’, and ‘De Soto’ cultivars are descendents of the wild species (Kindscher 1987). There are many different cultivars of Prunus species developed for both ornamental flowers and edible fruits. Consult your local nurseries to choose the right cultivar for your specific landscape.

Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & Missouri State Office

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Wild plum grows on the edges of prairies and woodlands. Traditional resource managers burned this community regularly, thus maintaining the patchwork mosaic of prairie and woods on the landscape (Thwaites 1906). Burning provided habitat for wild plum to become established, and the nutrient enrichment increased fruit production. The branches of wild plum were often pruned or cut back to increase production.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & Missouri State Office

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Other uses and values

More info for the terms: fresh, root sprout, rootstock

Contemporary use: American plum is a culinary plant [33,37,40,82]. It is cultivated for fruit [27,40,74] and as an ornamental [25,40,70], but it is not usually grown in commercial orchards [70]. Over 200 forms of American plum have been selected for cultivation, and American plum has been extensively hybridized with commercial plum cultivars [104]. It is sometimes used as rootstock plant for cultivated Prunus species ([57], review by [73]), but its tendency to root sprout means it is not ideal rootstock material (review by [73]).

Traditional use: American plum was used extensively by Native Americans [82,166]. Havard [61] speculates that Native Americans were cultivating American plums near villages before the arrival of Europeans. The Pima of Arizona and Mexico cultivated American plums since at least the period of Hispanic occupancy (1600s to mid-1800s) [139]. The Cheyenne ate the plums fresh, dried, and cooked in desserts. Fruits were also used in medicines. Branches were used to make the altar for the Sun Dance [60]. The Navajo made red dye from the roots [38].

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Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites

More info for the terms: mesic, restoration, shrubs

American plum is used for restoration plantings ([18,81], reviews by [42,152]), wildlife habitat and food plantings [13,36,48,81,111,151], windbreaks ([48,48,81,111,140], review by [152]), shelterbelts ([76,148], review by [152]), snow fences [151], mine spoil restoration [13,15,128], and erosion control. Since it forms thickets, it is highly useful for erosion control ([21,81], reviews by [46,152]). Plant materials are available commercially [123]. See these sources: ([79,81,134,160,167,169], review by [46]) for information on propagating and outplanting American plum.

Outplanting results: American plum is recommended for plantings on shallow to deep, moist to mesic soils in the Central Great Plains [140]; it is likely to perform well in the Northern Great Plains but fail to thrive in the Southern Great Plains and Southwest. American plum transplants used in highway plantings in Wisconsin averaged 93% survivorship after 5 years. They were watered during their first 2 years, which were droughty [59]. Two years after plantings in decadent, poorly regenerating green ash-American elm draws on the Little Missouri National Grassland, North Dakota, American plum transplants had 65% survival with cattle grazing and 89% survival without [14,18]. On coal mine spoils of Wyoming, American plum container and bareroot stock showed good survivorship (60% and 87%, respectively) with irrigation. Without irrigation, container stock showed poor survivorship (27%) compared to other container-grown species, while bareroot stock survivorship was about average (40%) compared to other bareroot-planted species [15]. For big game and other restoration projects in Utah, American plum was rated as showing poor initial establishment and growth but good persistence and spread in pinyon-juniper, big sagebrush, blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima), and mountain brush communities [133,134]. American plums transplanted on a strip-mined site in eastern Texas had 100% mortality 3 to 8 years after planting. Overall survivorship of shrubs was low on the site [54], and American plum was outside its native distribution.

On wildlife habitat planting sites in New York, Vermont, and Pennsylvania, hybrids of American plum and sand cherry (P. besseyi) showed poorer survival than sand cherry, so the authors recommend against using the hybrids for planting. American plums were not planted [36].

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

More info for the terms: cover, shrubs

Wooded draws of the Northern Great Plains and oak-hickory woodlands throughout their distribution provide critical habitat for wildlife, and American plum is an important component of these ecosystems. Although woody draws occupy about 1% of the Northern Great Plains landscape, many bird and small mammal species use them extensively. White-tailed deer and cattle also seek out these draws [154]. Johnston and Odium [77] describe breeding bird use of successional stages of oak-hickory forest on the Georgia Piedmont (see Successional Status). The grass-shrub stage, which included American plum, is the primary breeding habitat of 7 passerines [77].

Many herbivores including white-tailed deer [74], mule deer [89], and cottontails [81,156] browse American plum. On the Konza Prairie in Kansas, white-tailed deer browsed American plum more than expected based on availability [178]. In eastern Montana, common porcupines browsed American plum stems lightly in winter [64]. American plum is apparently not heavily used by wildlife in Arkansas [74].

Many birds and mammals eat the plums ([26,162], review by [160]), including sharp-tailed grouse [67], squirrels [33], white-tailed deer [33,158], foxes [28,74], coyotes [28,43,110], northern raccoons [33,74,147], and America black bears [33,74].

American plum is a nectar plant for bees and butterflies ([82], review by [46]) and a pollen plant for bees [82].

Palatability and/or nutritional value: American plum browse is moderately palatable to white-tailed deer [7,122], mule deer [122], and wildlife in general [175]. Its palatability for big game in Utah is rated good overall, showing moderate palatability in spring and good palatability in summer and winter [134]. American plum is preferred by domestic goats on prairie remnants in northwestern Illinois [16]. Its palatability is rated poor to fair for cattle [166].

American plum browse on a woodland clearcut in Alabama had moderate protein levels and high digestibility. See Burton and Scarfe [22] for detailed nutritional analyses of American plum browse.

Ripe American plum fruits are sour [33,40,90] to sweet-tart [40,83] or sweet ([162], review by [46]). Plums in the East are generally more sour than fruits in the West [41], lending credence to the idea of human-aided dispersal of American plums to the west. Plums collected in South Dakota tested high in antioxidants [2].

Cover value: American plum thickets provide thermal and hiding cover (review by [152]) for many bird and mammal species ([76,124,127,145], review by [46]). American plum provides nesting cover for many bird species [76], particularly those preferring edges or thickets [127]. Sharp-tailed grouse use American plum for winter cover [67,136]. In eastern Montana, sharp-tailed grouse used wooded draws with American plum as fall and winter habitat more than expected based on availability [168]. In mountainous regions of Missouri, ruffed grouse were positively correlated with young (7-15 years old), regenerating clearcuts of mixed hardwoods, including American plum (r=0.71, P=0.02) [190]. On the Custer National Forest in eastern Montana, wild turkeys used green ash-box elder/fleshy hawthorn-American plum communities for fall and winter cover. A few hens used the community in spring for nesting [78]. In south-central South Dakota, wild turkey hens used American plum thickets for nesting cover, building nests beneath individual American plum shrubs [188].

In Lory State Park, Colorado, female mule deer used mixed-shrub thickets, where American plum codominated, less than expected based on availability during the day and at sunset. Their use was neutral (as much as expected) at night and at sunrise. For feeding and resting cover, mule deer preferred a mosaic of grassland interspersed with dense smooth sumac stands [88]. In green ash-American elm-boxelder communities along the Big Sioux River in South Dakota, American beavers preferred dense riparian vegetation on ungrazed sites to thinner vegetation on sites with cattle. American plum was among the understory species providing dense riparian cover [29].

Woody draws with American plum provide shade for livestock [150,166], although livestock may be unable to access dense American plum thickets.

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Uses

Ethnobotanic: Wild plum fruit was and still is extensively consumed by the Indians of the prairies, either fresh or made into a sauce (Kindscher 1987). The Pawnee, Kiowa, Comanche, Omaha, Teton Dakota, Lakota, Comanche, Crow, Assiniboin, and Kiowa ate the wild plums or chickasaw plums (Prunus angustifolia) fresh or dried. Plums were also pitted and dried, although the Pawnee reportedly often dried them without removing the pits (Gilmore 1977). Early explorers and travelers of the Prairie Bioregion often mentioned wild plums in their journals and diaries and also appreciated them as food (Kindscher 1987). Today wild plums are eaten fresh, canned, preserved in jams and jellies, baked, and made into fruit roll-ups.

The Omaha scraped and boiled the bark from the roots of the wild plum and applied it to abrasions (Gilmore 1977, Kindscher 1992). They bound together the twigs of the wild plum and made them into a broom. The Cheyenne mixed the crushed

fruits of the wild plum with salt to treat mouth disease (Hart 1981). They also crushed and boiled the small rootlets and the bark of older wild plum with the roots of the scarlet thorn (Crataegus chrysocarpa) as a diarrhea remedy (Youngken 1925). The Mesquakies used the root bark of the wild plum to cure canker sores around the mouth (Smith 1928).

The Teton Dakota used the sprouts or young growth of the wild plum as a wand in the “waunyampi” ceremony (Gilmore 1977). This is an offering or form of prayer, consisting of a wand made from a peeled and painted wild plum sprout. The “waunyampi” ceremony is usually offered with prayers for the sick.

The various species of wild plum are astringent and sedative, and the bark is a tonic (Smythe 1901). The roots and bark contain a bitter substance as well as a substance called phloretin, which is an active agent against gram positive and negative bacteria (Lewis and Elvin-Lewis 1977).

Wildlife: Wild plums are eaten by turkey, black bear, and wolves (Thwaites 1904). Foxes, black-headed grosbeaks, and ring-tailed cats utilize wild plums (Martin et al. 1951). Plum thickets often furnish valuable protective shelter.

Conservation: Wild plums have been recommended for their drought resistance and widely planted in shelter belts in the western Great Plains (Jerry Kaiser pers. comm. 1999). They also make good wildlife habitat and are effective in erosion control because their roots hold the soil. Their thorny branches catch tumbleweeds, leaves, and other plant materials, which, when windstorms occur during times of drought, provide an effective means of slowing wind erosion of soil.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & Missouri State Office

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Wikipedia

Prunus americana

Prunus americana, commonly called the American plum, wild plum, or Marshall's large yellow sweet plum, is a species of Prunus native to North America from Saskatchewan to New Mexico east to New Hampshire and Florida. It has often been planted outside its core range and sometimes escapes cultivation.[4] It is commonly confused with the Canada plum (Prunus nigra), although the fruit is smaller and rounder and bright red as opposed to yellow. Many cultivated varieties have been derived from this species. It forms an excellent stock upon which to graft the domestic plum.[5]

Description[edit]

Trees of American plum

The American plum grows as a large shrub or small tree, reaching up to 15 feet (4.6 m).[6] It is adapted to coarse- and medium-textured soils, but not to fine soils. The shrub is winter-hardy, but has little tolerance for shade, drought, or fire. Its growth is most active in spring and summer, and it blooms in midspring. It propagates by seed, but the rate of spread by seed is slow.

The roots are shallow, widely spread, and send up suckers.[6] The numerous stems per plant become scaly with age. The tree has a broad crown.[citation needed] The branches are thorny. The leaves are alternately arranged, with an oval shape. The leaf length is usually 2–4 in (5.1–10.2 cm) long. The upper surface of the leaf is dark green and under side is smooth and pale. The small white flowers with five petals occur singly or in clusters in the leaf axils. The globular fruits are about 1 in (2.5 cm) in diameter.

Taxonomy[edit]

Prunus americana var. lanata Sudw is considered a synonym of Prunus mexicana, and Prunus americana var. nigra is considered a synonym of Prunus nigra.[7]

Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia Marsh.) hybridizes naturally with P. americana to produce P. × orthosepala Koehne.[8]

In cultivation, many crosses have been made between American plum and other Prunus species, including Prunus persica, the peach.

Uses[edit]

The American plum is used for both ornamental and culinary purposes. The white flowers are decorative in spring and its short, single leader makes it a popular residential landscape tree. Sargent says of it: "As an ornamental plant P. americana has real value; the long wand-like branches form a wide, graceful head which is handsome in winter and in spring is covered with masses of pure white flowers followed by ample bright foliage and abundant showy fruit."[5] More than 200 forms of American plum have been grown for cultivation. The sour and sweet fruit is eaten fresh and is processed as preserves, jellies, jam and wine.[4]

Farms use medium to tall shrubs or trees for windbreaks, and highway or riverside plantings. Its high density of growth effectively reduces the wind velocity near the ground. Development of suckers from the root system makes American plum effective in stabilizing stream banks and gullies. It will tolerate several days of flooding. Some commercial properties plant the trees along the entrance road.[9]

Many birds and animals eat the fruit, and both white-tailed deer and mule deer feed on twigs and leaves.[10][11]

Traditionally, American plum was extensively used by Native Americans.Eastern Native Americans planted many trees giving many places the name of Crab Orchard.{Aronhime papers ,Va State Library}

' The Cheyenne ate the plums, and used branches for the Sun Dance. The Navajo used the roots to make a red dye.[12][13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bailey, Page 2827.
  2. ^ Elbert L. Little, Jr. "Digital Representations of Tree Species Range Maps". Atlas of United States Trees. 
  3. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Little, Elbert L., Jr. (1950). Southwestern trees: A guide to the native species of New Mexico and Arizona. Agric. Handb. No. 9. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 109 p.
  5. ^ a b Keeler, pages 121-122.
  6. ^ a b "USDA NRCS Plant Fact Sheet: American Plum, Prunus americana Marsh.". USDA. 
  7. ^ USDA PLANTS
  8. ^ Lee, Sangtae; Wen, Jun. (2001). A phylogenetic analysis of Prunus and the Amygdaloideae (Rosaceae) using ITS sequences of nuclear ribosomal DNA. American Journal of Botany. 88(1): 150-160.
  9. ^ American plum Retrieved on April 20, 2010
  10. ^ Prunus americana American Plum Retrieved on April 20, 2010
  11. ^ Morris, Melvin S.; Schmautz, Jack E.; Stickney, Peter F. (1962). Winter field key to the native shrubs of Montana. Bulletin No. 23. Missoula, MT: Montana State University, Montana Forest and Conservation Experiment Station. 70 p.
  12. ^ Hart, Jeffrey A. (1981). The ethnobotany of the Northern Cheyenne Indians of Montana. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 4: 1-55.
  13. ^ Elmore, Francis H. (1944). Ethnobotany of the Navajo. Monograph Series: 1(7). Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico. 136 p.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scriber's Sons.  Downloadable Google Books at [1].
  • Bailey, Liberty Hyde (1916). The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. New York: The MacMillan Company.  Downloadable Google Books at [2].
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Synonyms

More info for the term: marsh

Prunus americana Marsh. var. americana

Prunus americana Marsh. var. lanata Sudw. [193]

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More info for the term: marsh

The scientific name of American plum is Prunus americana Marsh. (Rosaceae) [53,68,82,90,106,112,137,182,187,193].

American plum is most closely related to [99] and hybridizes naturally with Chickasaw plum (P. angustifolia Marsh.), producing P. × orthopsepala Koehne [82,106]. Many horticultural crosses have been made with American plum and other Prunus [36,44,75].

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Common Names

American plum

goose plum

river plum

wild plum

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