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Prunus domestica italica - (Borkh.) Gams

Common Name Gages, Greengage
Family Rosaceae
USDA hardiness 5-8
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 Not known in a truly wild situation
Range A cultivated plant, not known in the wild.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Prunus domestica italica Gages, Greengage

Agnieszka Kwiecien, Nova wikimedia.org
Prunus domestica italica Gages, Greengage
VerboseDreamer wikimedia.org


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Prunus domestica italica is a deciduous Tree growing to 5 m (16ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 6. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Insects.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


P. domestica subsp. italica. P. italica Borkh.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Fruit  Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Oil

Fruit - raw or cooked. Often considered to be the finest of the dessert plums, they have a delicious flavour[K ].The greengages. The usually green, globose fruit is usually 30 - 400mm in diameter. 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 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

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.
Digestive  Febrifuge  Laxative  Purgative  Stomachic  Styptic

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 and is styptic [4 , 7 ]. 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 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Adhesive  Cosmetic  Dye  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. The reddish-brown wood is very close-grained, hard, compact. Liable to warp and split. It is used for musical instruments [115 , 146 ].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

The greengages are a group of cultivars of the common European plum. Gages are often cultivated as a fruit crop, especially in western Europe. Of excellent quality, though their delicate skins makes it difficult to get them to market in good condition and so they are more likely to be grown on a garden scale or be used for canning etc. Prunus domestica subsp. italica 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 ]. The various gages are often cultivated for their edible fruits, especially on a garden scale. There are some named varieties [200 ]. The gage was first developed from the plum in the Middle East, later spreading via France into much of western Europe. Its cultivation has spread into most temperate regions, though it is often only grown on a small scale because of the difficulty of getting it to market in good condition. 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 ]. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is flat with shallow roots spreading near the soil surface [2-1]. Prunus domestica italica is a deciduous shrub or a tree usually growing 2 - 6 metres tall, occasionally to 15 metres. We can infer from its cultivation that the species grows optimally in areas with cold winters and long warm summers as vernalisation is required for flowering. The species can tolerate frost, however, when this occurs after flowering the fruit quality is poor (Lim 2002). Widely grown cultivars include: Boddarts Reneclode (Germany), Bryanston (UK), Cambridge Gage (UK), Canerik (Turkey), Denniston's Superb (USA), Gojeh Sabz (Iran), Yasil Alça or Göy Alça (Azerbaijan), Golden Transparent (UK), Graf Althanns Reneklode (Germany), Green Vanilla (Mount Pelion, Greece), Große Grüne Reneklode (Germany) / Reine Claude Verte (France), Laxton's Gage (UK), Laxton's Supreme (UK), Meroldts Reneclode (Germany), Rainha Cláudia (Portugal), Regina Claudia (Italy), Reine Claude de Bavay (France), Reine Claude d'Oullins (France), Uhinks Reneklode (Germany), Washington (USA).

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant 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. The various cultivars of plum are unlikely to breed true (though the green forms of the gage generally do) - they will usually produce a range of plants from seed with differing characteristics from their parent, Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, mid summer in a frame [11 , 200 ]. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame [200 ]. Layering in spring.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Gages (greengages, round plums etc.; including sspp. claudiana and rotunda)

Albania; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Belgium; Bulgaria; Czechia; Denmark; Finland; France (France (mainland), Corsica); Georgia; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Ireland; Italy (Italy (mainland), Sardegna, Sicilia); Netherlands; Portugal; Romania; Russian Federation; Slovakia; Spain (Spain (mainland), Canary Is.); Sweden; Turkey (Turkey-in-Europe, Turkey-in-Asia); United Kingdom (Northern Ireland, Great Britain)

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Unknown

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(Borkh.) Gams

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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