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Prunus insititia - L.                
                 
Common Name Damson
Family Rosaceae
Synonyms P. insititia. 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 Thickets, hedges and open woods[4, 17].
Range S. W. Asia. Naturalized and often considered a native of Britain.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Summary       

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of lolypop
Prunus insititia is a deciduous Tree growing to 6 m (19ft) by 5 m (16ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone 5. It is in flower in April, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, insects.

USDA hardiness zone : 5-9


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. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Prunus insititia Damson


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Prunus_domestica_subsp_insititia.jpg
Prunus insititia Damson
   
Habitats       
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Hedge;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Fruit;  Seed.
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked[1, 2, 46]. More acid than a plum but it is very acceptable raw when fully ripe, especially after being touched by frost[12, 34, K]. The fruit is about 3cm in diameter and contains one large seed[200]. Seed - raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity.
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;  Purgative;  Styptic.

The bark of the root and branches is febrifuge and considerably styptic[4]. An infusion of the flowers has been used as a mild purgative for children[4]. 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
Dye;  Hedge;  Hedge;  Shelterbelt.

A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[168]. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[168]. Trees are fairly wind resistant and can be grown as a shelterbelt hedge[200].
Cultivation details                                         
Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil[1, 11]. 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 apt to become chlorotic if too much is present[1]. Occasionally cultivated for its edible fruit, there are some named varieties[200]. It has been derived in cultivation from the bullace, differing in having a sweeter fruit[200]. Damsons can be grown successfully against a north facing wall[219]. 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.
[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.
[12]Loewenfeld. C. and Back. P. Britain's Wild Larder.
A handy pocket guide.
[17]Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles.
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
[34]Harrison. S. Wallis. M. Masefield. G. The Oxford Book of Food Plants.
Good drawings of some of the more common food plants from around the world. Not much information though.
[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.
[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.
[168]Grae. I. Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants.
A very good and readable book on dyeing.
[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.

Readers comment                                         
 
Elizabeth H.
Simon Sat Jul 19 2008
Could I get an idea when and how hard (if at all?) I should prune my tree. It was planted in December and is only about 5 ft tall with lots of very spindly off shoots. Should I prune these off or not?
Paul A.
Sep 9 2011 12:00AM
Does anybody know if there are non-fruiting varieties of this tree that grow in the wild. I have come across a thicket of what i have identified as this tree, mixed age ranging from saplings to what looks like at least 15 yr old trees. I have observed during the fruiting season and cannot find a trace of fruit anywhere, i also observed the lack of blossom in the spring.
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