American PlumPhoto by Lisa Bird (Prunus americana)

Appearance: American plum, a member of the Rose family, is one of the first native woody plants to bloom in the spring, with the white, fragrant, 5-petalled blossoms appearing before the leaves unfold.   There are numerous 1”-2” long, blunt thorns along the branches.  The leaves are long, pointed and oval-shaped.  American Plum bears edible 1” diameter fruit which ripen mid- to late summer, and fall color can be a muted reddish-orange.

Habitat: American plum forms dense thickets along fencerows in vacant areas and on the sides of gulches in the foothills, in either full sun or partial shade.  It does well in a xeric situation, but performs even better with a little more moisture and well-drained loamy soils.

Landscape Suitability:  Can be pruned to be a small, multi-stemmed ornamental tree, but because it sends out many suckers, it will require maintenance to keep the suckers pruned.  If left on its own, American plum will become an informal shrubby thicket about 8’ tall, which is great in the back of the shrub border.  Such a thicket would also make a good privacy screen if fencing isn’t an option.

Contributed by Linda Smith, Colorado Native Plant Master