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Beach plum typically grows to around 2 m (6 ft) tall and has straggling or prostrate lower branches, although when grown inland may develop tree, rather than shrub, form, and reach heights up to around 8 m (18 ft). Branches occasionally have spines. Leaves are oval to elliptical, usually serrate (with sharp teeth) or crenate (wavy-margined), 2.5 to 6.5 cm (1 to 2.5 in) long, usually pubescent (with short downy hair) on the underside. The 5-petalled white flowers are small, around 1 cm (less than 0.5 in) in diameter, and generally occur in clusters of two or three. Fruits are spherical to oval drupes, with firm, somewhat juicy flesh and a hard pit. Fruits range in color from red to purple (one horticultural variety is yellow), and are covered with a waxy bloom.
Two naturally occurring varieties grow along the Atlantic coast in the Northeastern U.S., and both are listed as endangered: var. maritima is recognized as an endangered species in Maine, Maryland, Pennsylvania; and var. gravesii is listed as endangered in Connecticut.
(Bailey et al. 1976, Everett 1981, Hedrick 1919, USDA 2002.)