Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

This deciduous shrub flowers from late February to early March to April (5).The flowers are pollinated by a range of insects (2).  In addition to flavouring gin, sloes are used in jellies, conserves and syrups and were made to make sloe wine, an alternative to port (5)(4). They have also been put to various uses in folk-medicine (6). The flowers are edible and the leaves have been dried and used as a substitute for tea (6). Furthermore, dyes have been obtained form the fruits, leaves and bark (5). The wood of blackthorn is extremely hard and is highly valued for making walking sticks as it shows interesting patterns and knot-holes (4).
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Description

Blackthorn is a deciduous shrub that has long been popular in hedgerows because of its thorns (4). The beautiful white blossom tends to appear early in the year before the leaves, often in a very cold period following a false spring. These cold snaps are widely known as 'blackthorn winters' (4). Blackthorn is related to the plums. The bitter fruits it produces are known as sloes, and are used to make sloe gin (4). They are bluish-black in colour and often have a whitish bloom. The flesh is green and there is a single stone inside (2).
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Distribution

Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Prunus spinosa L.:
China (Asia)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Range

Widespread in Britain southwards of Sutherland and Caithness and reaching altitudes of up to 415m in Yorkshire (2). Elsewhere, this shrub is found in Europe with the exceptions of the far north and north-east, and extends as far east as Iran. It also occurs in south-western Siberia (2).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Shrubs, rarely trees, 4–8 m tall. Branches reddish brown, robust, glabrous, spiny; branchlets reddish brown, densely pubescent. Winter buds purplish red, pubescent. Stipules lanceolate, margin glandular, apex acuminate. Petiole 5–7 mm, pubescent, without nectaries; leaf blade oblong-obovate, elliptic-ovate, or rarely oblong, 2–4 × 0.8–1.8 cm, abaxially yellowish green and pubescent, adaxially dark green and sparsely appressed pubescent, glabrescent, base subrounded to broadly cuneate, margin crenate or sometimes doubly crenate, apex acute to obtuse; secondary veins 4 or 5(–8) on either side of midvein. Flowers solitary, opening before leaves, 1–1.5 cm in diam. Pedicel 6–8(–15) mm, glabrous or sparsely pubescent. Hypanthium outside glabrous. Sepals triangular-ovate, outside glabrous, margin serrulate, apex acute. Petals white with pale purple veins, oblong, base cuneate, apex obtuse. Stamens 20–25. Ovary glabrous. Stigma capitate. Drupe black, globose, broadly ellipsoid, or conical, 1–1.5 cm in diam., glabrous, glaucous; mesocarp green; endocarp brown, ovoid to ellipsoid, ± flattened, rugose. Fl. Apr, fr. Aug.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Prunus domestica Linnaeus var. spinosa (Linnaeus) Kuntze.
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Ecology

Habitat

Typical habitats include hedgerows, woodlands, scrub, cliff slopes and screes. On shingle beaches a prostrate form of blackthorn may occur (3). This shrub can tolerate a wide range of soil types, but cannot survive in deep shade (2).
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Habitat & Distribution

Cultivated throughout China [native to N Africa, SW Asia, and Europe].
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Associations

Foodplant / saprobe
effuse colony of Acrogenospora anamorph of Acrogenospora sphaerocephala is saprobic on rotten wood of Prunus spinosa

Plant / associate
Anthocoris gallarum-ulmi is associated with aphid-galled leaf of Prunus spinosa

Plant / associate
Anthonomus rufus is associated with Prunus spinosa

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Auricularia auricula-judae is saprobic on wood of Prunus spinosa

Plant / associate
Cardiastethus fasciiventris is associated with lichen-covered Prunus spinosa
Other: major host/prey

Plant / associate
subiculate perithecium of Chaetosphaerella phaeostroma is associated with fungus infected, fallen branch of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 9-4

Foodplant / saprobe
perithecium of Chaetosphaeria myriocarpa is saprobic on fallen, dead branch of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 1-12

Plant / resting place / on
adult of Cryptocephalus bipunctatus may be found on Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 4-late 8

Foodplant / saprobe
conidioma of Foveostroma coelomycetous anamorph of Dermea padi is saprobic on dead twig of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / saprobe
erumpent pycnidium of Foveostroma coelomycetous anamorph of Dermea prunastri is saprobic on dead twig of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / parasite
Phomopsis coelomycetous anamorph of Diaporthe perniciosa parasitises live branch of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Dichomitus efibulatus is saprobic on dead, white-rotten wood of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / saprobe
resupinate fruitbody of Eichleriella deglubens is saprobic on fallen branch of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / saprobe
stroma of Encoelia fimbriata is saprobic on dead wood of Prunus spinosa
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
erumpent apothecium of Encoelia fuckelii is saprobic on dead branch of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 4

Foodplant / saprobe
effuse colony of Endophragmiella anamorph of Endophragmiella boothii is saprobic on dead wood of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 10-4

Foodplant / saprobe
immersed perithecium of Endoxyla cirrhosa is saprobic on rotten wood of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: good condition: 4-5

Foodplant / parasite
fruitbody of Entoloma clypeatum parasitises live root of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 4-6
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / gall
Eriophyes similis causes gall of leaf of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / parasite
cleistothecium of Erysiphe prunastri parasitises Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / open feeder
colonial, tented caterpillar of Euproctis chrysorrhoea grazes on live leaf of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 8-7

Foodplant / saprobe
stromatic, immersed perithecium of Eutypa flavovirens is saprobic on dead wood of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 1-12

Foodplant / saprobe
stromatic, densely crowded perithecium of Eutypella prunastri is saprobic on dead, often attached branch of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 4-5

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Exidiopsis calcea is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Ganoderma australe is saprobic on dead trunk of Prunus spinosa

Plant / resting place / within
ovum of Hoplocampa chrysorrhoea may be found in ovary of Prunus spinosa

Plant / resting place / within
ovum of Hoplocampa flava may be found in ovary of Prunus spinosa

Plant / resting place / within
ovum of Hoplocampa rutilicornis may be found in ovary of Prunus spinosa
Other: sole host/prey

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Hygrocybe chlorophana is associated with Prunus spinosa
Other: minor host/prey

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Hypocreopsis rhododendri is associated with live branch of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / saprobe
Geniculosporium anamorph of Hypoxylon howeanum is saprobic on dead branch of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 1-4
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
hysterothecium of Hysterium angustatum is saprobic on dead, decorticate branch of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 3-5

Foodplant / saprobe
colony of Monodictys dematiaceous anamorph of Monodictys putredinis is saprobic on rotten wood of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / open feeder
social larva of Nematus lucidus grazes on leaf of Prunus spinosa

Plant / associate
perithecium of Nitschkia collapsa is associated with fungus-infested Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 8-3

Foodplant / saprobe
perithecium of Nitschkia cupularis is saprobic on dead, decorticate branch of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 10-4

Foodplant / feeds on
Orthotylus marginalis feeds on Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / saprobe
Diplodia coelomycetous anamorph of Otthia spiraeae is saprobic on dead branch of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 11-4

Plant / resting place / on
adult of Oulema obscura may be found on Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 7-

Foodplant / open feeder
larva of Pareophora pruni grazes on leaf of Prunus spinosa
Other: sole host/prey

Fungus / saprobe
fruitbody of Perenniporia ochroleuca is saprobic on dead, fallen twig of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / saprobe
sessile apothecium of Pezizella leucostigma is saprobic on branch of Prunus spinosa
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Phellinus pomaceus is saprobic on dead Prunus spinosa
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Phlebiopsis ravenelii is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Prunus spinosa
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / sap sucker
Phorodon humuli sucks sap of live shoot of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 3-6, autumn

Foodplant / feeds on
Phyllobius oblongus feeds on Prunus spinosa

Plant / associate
Physatocheila dumetorum is associated with lichen-covered branch of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / parasite
evanescent, mainly hypophyllous conidial anamorph of Podosphaera tridactyla parasitises live leaf of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / saprobe
stromatic, immersed perithecium of Polystigma rubrum is saprobic on dead, fallen, overwintered leaf of Prunus spinosa
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / open feeder
solitary larva of Pristiphora biscalis grazes on leaf of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / feeds on
larva of Pristiphora monogyniae feeds on Prunus spinosa
Other: sole host/prey

Foodplant / sap sucker
Rhopalosiphum nymphaeae sucks sap of live Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: winter
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Rhynchites aequatus feeds within fruit of Prunus spinosa
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Rhynchites auratus feeds within fruit kernel of Prunus spinosa
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Rhynchites caeruleus feeds within decaying shoot of Prunus spinosa
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Rhynchites pauxillus feeds within leaf (midrib) of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Serendipita vermifera is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Prunus spinosa
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Skeletocutis nivea is saprobic on dead, fallen, decayed stick of Prunus spinosa
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Stypella subhyalina is saprobic on dead, decayed wood of Prunus spinosa
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / pathogen
infection of Taphrina pruni infects and damages live, distorted, stunted, swollen, pale yellow tinged red shoot of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / spot causer
hypophyllous uredium of Tranzschelia discolor causes spots on live leaf of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 7-9
Other: uncertain

Foodplant / parasite
telium of Tranzschelia pruni-spinosae parasitises live leaf of Prunus spinosa
Remarks: season: 7-9

Foodplant / saprobe
stromatic, valsoid perithecium of Valsaria cincta is saprobic on dead stem of Prunus spinosa

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Vuilleminia comedens is saprobic on dead, decorticate, attached branch of Prunus spinosa
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Vuilleminia cystidiata is saprobic on dead, decorticate, attached branch of Prunus spinosa
Other: unusual host/prey

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Prunus spinosa

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Prunus spinosa

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 12
Specimens with Barcodes: 26
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Status

Not threatened (3).
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Threats

This shrub is not threatened.
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Management

Conservation

Conservation action is not required for this species at present.
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Wikipedia

Prunus spinosa

Prunus spinosa (blackthorn, bair[citation needed] or sloe) is a species of Prunus native to Europe, western Asia, and locally in northwest Africa.[2][3] It is also locally naturalised in New Zealand and eastern North America.[3]

Names[edit]

Sloe (Prunus spinosa) flower, fruit, seed and leaves as illustrated by Otto Wilhelm Thomé (1885).

The specific name spinosa is a Latin term indicating the pointed and thornlike spur shoots characteristic of this species.

The common name "blackthorn" is due to the thorny nature of the shrub, and its very dark bark.

The word commonly used for the fruit, "sloe" comes from Old English slāh. The same word is noted in Middle Low German, historically spoken in Lower Saxony, Middle Dutch sleuuwe or, contracted form, slē, from which come Modern Low German words: slē, slī, and Modern Dutch slee, Old High German slēha", "slēwa, from which come Modern German Schlehe and Danish slåen.

The names related to 'sloe' come from the Common Germanic root *slaiχwōn. Cf. West Slavic / Polish śliwa; plum of any species, including sloe śliwa tarnina—root present in other Slavic languages, e.g. Croatian/Serbian šljiva / шљива.

The expression "sloe-eyed" for a person with dark eyes comes from the fruit, and is first attested in A. J. Wilson's 1867 novel Vashti.[4]

Description[edit]

Plant in flower in early spring

Prunus spinosa is a large deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 5 metres (16 ft) tall, with blackish bark and dense, stiff, spiny branches. The leaves are oval, 2–4.5 centimetres (0.79–1.77 in) long and 1.2–2 centimetres (0.47–0.79 in) broad, with a serrated margin. The flowers are 1.5 centimetres (0.59 in) diameter, with five creamy-white petals; they are produced shortly before the leaves in early spring, and are hermaphroditic and insect-pollinated. The fruit, called a "sloe", is a drupe 10–12 millimetres (0.39–0.47 in) in diameter, black with a purple-blue waxy bloom, ripening in autumn, and harvested—traditionally, at least in the UK, in October or November after the first frosts. Sloes are thin-fleshed, with a very strongly astringent flavour when fresh.[2]

Prunus spinosa is frequently confused with the related P. cerasifera (cherry plum), particularly in early spring when the latter starts flowering somewhat earlier than P. spinosa. They can be distinguished by flower colour, creamy white in P. spinosa, pure white in P. cerasifera. They can also be distinguished in winter by the more shrubby habit with stiffer, wider-angled branches of P. spinosa; in summer by the relatively narrower leaves of P. spinosa, more than twice as long as broad;[2][5] and in autumn by the colour of the fruit skin—purplish-black in P. spinosa and yellow or red in P. cerasifera.

Prunus spinosa has a tetraploid (2n=4x=32) set of chromosomes.[6]

Ecology[edit]

See also List of Lepidoptera that feed on Prunus
Pocket Plum gall on Blackthorn, caused by the fungus Taphrina pruni

The foliage is sometimes eaten by the larvae of Lepidoptera, including emperor moth, willow beauty, white-pinion spotted, common emerald, November moth, pale November moth, mottled pug, green pug, brimstone moth, feathered thorn, brown-tail, yellow-tail, short-cloaked moth, lesser yellow underwing, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing, double square-spot, black and brown hairstreaks, hawthorn moth (Scythropia crataegella) and the case-bearer moth Coleophora anatipennella. Dead blackthorn wood provides food for the caterpillars of the concealer moth Esperia oliviella.

The pocket plum gall is found on the fruit, where it results in an elongated and flattened gall, devoid of a stone.

Uses[edit]

Plum and sloe output in 2005
Grafted blackthorn tree; called a Husband and Wife tree

The shrub, with its savage thorns, is traditionally used in Northern Europe and Britain in making a hedge against cattle or a "cattle-proof" hedge.[7]

The fruit is similar to a small damson or plum, suitable for preserves, but rather tart and astringent for eating, unless it is picked after the first few days of autumn frost. This effect can be reproduced by freezing harvested sloes.

The juice is used in the manufacture of spurious port wine, and used as an adulterant to impart roughness to genuine port.[8][9] In rural Britain, so-called sloe gin is made from the fruit, though this is not a true gin, but an infusion of gin with the fruit and sugar to produce a liqueur. In Navarre, Spain, a popular liqueur called pacharan is made with sloes. In France a similar liqueur called épine or épinette or troussepinette is made from the young shoots in spring. In Italy, the infusion of spirit with the fruits and sugar produces a liqueur called bargnolino (or sometimes prunella). Wine made from fermented sloes is made in Britain, and in Germany and other central European countries. Sloes can also be made into jam and, used in fruit pies, and if preserved in vinegar are similar in taste to Japanese umeboshi. The juice of the berries dyes linen a reddish color that washes out to a durable pale blue.[10]

Blackthorn makes an excellent fire wood that burns slowly with a good heat and little smoke.[11] The wood takes a fine polish and is used for tool handles and canes.[12] Straight blackthorn stems have traditionally been made into walking sticks or clubs (known in Ireland as a shillelagh).[13] In the British Army, blackthorn sticks are carried by commissioned officers of the Royal Irish Regiment; the tradition also occurs in Irish regiments in some Commonwealth countries.

The leaves resemble tea leaves, and were used as an adulterant of tea.[9][12] Shlomo Yitzhaki, a Talmudist and Tanakh commentator of the High Middle Ages, writes that the sap (or gum) of P. spinosa (or what he refers to as the prunellier) was used as an ingredient in the making of some inks used for manuscripts.[14]

The fruit stones have been found in Swiss lake dwellings.[9]

Evidence of the early use of sloes by man is found in the famous case of a 5,300-year-old human mummy discovered in 1991 in the Ötztal Alps along the Austrian-Italian border (nick-named Ötzi): among the stomach contents were sloes.[15]

A "sloe-thorn worm" used as fishing bait is mentioned in the 15th century work, The Treatyse of Fishing with an Angle, by Juliana Berners.[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins ISBN 0-00-220013-9.
  3. ^ a b Den Virtuella Floran: Prunus spinosa map
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  5. ^ Vedel, H., & Lange, J. (1960). Trees and Bushes in Wood and Hedgerow. Metheun & Co. Ltd., London.
  6. ^ Weinberger, J. H. 1975. Plums. Pp. 336–347 in Advances in fruit breeding, eds. J. Janick and J. N. Moore. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press.
  7. ^ Alice M. Coats, Garden Shrubs and Their Histories (1964) 1992, s.v. "Prunus".
  8. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Sloe". New International Encyclopedia. 1905. 
  9. ^ a b c Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainRines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Sloe". Encyclopedia Americana. 
  10. ^ Coats (1964) 1992.
  11. ^ The Scout Association 1999. The Burning Properties of Wood, London, U.K. [1]
  12. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainBeach, Chandler B., ed. (1914). "Sloe". The New Student's Reference Work. Chicago: F. E. Compton and Co. 
  13. ^ Chouinard B.A., Maxime. The stick is king: The Shillelagh Bata or the rediscovery of a living Irish martial tradition. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  14. ^ Talmud Bavli, Tractate Shabbat 23a
  15. ^ Tia Ghose (November 8, 2012). "Mummy Melodrama: Top 9 Secrets About Otzi the Iceman". LiveScience. Retrieved November 10, 2012.  (to locate, click ahead to part 4)
  16. ^ The Treatyse of Fishing with an Angle (attributed to Dame Juliana Berners in the 15th century)
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Notes

Comments

This species is cultivated for its edible fruit and as grafting stock for other species of Prunoideae.
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