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Prunus domestica - L.                
                 
Common Name Plum, European plum
Family Rosaceae
Synonyms P. communis. non L.
Known Hazards Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Habitats Found in hedges in Britain[17].
Range Europe to W. Asia. Naturalized in Britain. A hybrid P. spinosa x P. cerasifera divaricata.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Summary       

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of lolypop
Prunus domestica is a deciduous Tree growing to 12 m (39ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in flower in April, and the seeds ripen from Jul to November. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.The plant is self-fertile.


USDA hardiness zone : 4-9


Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Prunus domestica Plum, European plum


Prunus domestica Plum, European plum
   
Habitats       
Woodland Garden Secondary; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; East Wall. By. South Wall. By. West Wall. By.
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Flowers;  Fruit;  Oil;  Oil;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Gum;  Oil;  Oil;  Tea.

Fruit - raw or cooked[1, 2, 7, 46]. The fruit varies considerably from cultivar to cultivar, but it is generally somewhat mealy, soft and juicy with a delicious flavour ranging from very sweet to acid[K]. The more acid fruits are usually only used for cooking purposes[K]. The fruit varies widely in size according to cultivar but can be 8cm long and contains a single large seed[200]. Seed - raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity. An edible gum is obtained from points of damage on the trunk[64]. The seed contains about 20% of an edible semi-drying oil[4, 57]. It has an agreeable almond smell and flavour[4]. The flowers are eaten. They are used as a garnish for salads and ice cream or brewed into a tea[183].
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Febrifuge;  Laxative;  Stomachic.

The dried fruit, known as prunes, is a safe and effective laxative and is also stomachic[4, 7, 21, 238]. The bark is sometimes used as a febrifuge[7]. Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being[238].
Other Uses
Adhesive;  Dye;  Gum;  Oil;  Oil;  Wood.

A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[168]. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[168]. A yellow dye is obtained from the bark[115]. A gum obtained from points of damage along the stem can be used as an adhesive[64]. The ground up seeds are used cosmetically in the production of face-masks for dry skin[7]. A semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed[64]. No details of its uses. Wood - hard, compact. Used for musical instruments[115].
Cultivation details                                         
Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil[1, 11] and a sheltered position[200]. Succeeds in light shade but fruits better in a sunny position[11, 200]. Thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone[11]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers some chalk in the soil but it is apt to become chlorotic if too much is present[1]. Prefers a pH between 6 and 6.5[200]. The plum is widely cultivated for its edible fruit in temperate zones, there are many named varieties able to supply fresh fruits from late July to November or December[183]. Many cultivars are fully self-fertile, though some are partially self-sterile and others require cross-pollination[200]. Where space is at a premium, or at the limits of their climatic range, plums can be grown against a wall. Most cultivars will grow well against a sunny south or west facing wall, whilst an east facing wall will suit some of the tougher cultivars, a north facing wall is not really suitable[219]. This species is probably a hybrid of ancient origin between P. spinosa and P. cerasifera, coupled with chromosome doubling[17]. It does not cross-pollinate with the Japanese plum, P. salicina[200]. Prefers growing in a continental climate, mild winters tend to encourage earlier flowering with a greater risk of frost damage to the blossom. In Britain the best fruits are produced away from the western side of the country. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged[238]. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200].
                                                                                 
Propagation                                         
Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[200]. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[200]. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate[113]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame[11, 200]. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame[200]. Layering in spring.
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Expert comment                                         
 
      
Author                                         
L.
                                                                                 
Botanical References                                         
1117200
                                                                                 
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[17]Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles.
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[57]Schery. R. W. Plants for Man.
Fairly readable but not very comprehensive. Deals with plants from around the world.
[64]Howes. F. N. Vegetable Gums and Resins.
A very good book dealing with the subject in a readable way.
[113]Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
[115]Johnson. C. P. The Useful Plants of Great Britain.
Written about a hundred years ago, but still a very good guide to the useful plants of Britain.
[168]Grae. I. Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants.
A very good and readable book on dyeing.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[219]Grey-Wilson. C. & Matthews. V. Gardening on Walls
A nice little book about plants for growing against walls and a small section on plants that can grow in walls.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.

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