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16 Interesting Facts About Cherry Plum

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The cherry plum is a popular ornamental tree that produces edible fruit. Here are 16 fascinating facts about this versatile plant:

Introduction

The cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera) is a small, flowering plum tree that is among the first trees to bloom each spring. It is appreciated for its early spring blossoms and tart summer fruits.

While the cherry plum grows wild across temperate regions of Asia and Europe, it is also widely cultivated as an ornamental shade tree and fruiting plant. There are over 250 cultivars of cherry plum that have been bred for varying leaf shapes, flower colors, tree forms, and fruit qualities.

Below are 16 intriguing details that highlight why the humble cherry plum remains such a beloved garden plant.

Facts About Cherry Plum

Purple and yellow cherry plums
Purple and yellow cherry plums by Nick Saltmarsh is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .
  1. The cherry plum is a hybrid species. The cherry plum is believed to be a natural hybrid between the sloe (Prunus spinosa) and the cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera). This intermingling of species gives the cherry plum unique qualities within the Prunus genus.
  2. Its fruits can be eaten fresh or cooked. The small, oval drupe fruits of the cherry plum ripen to a bright red in midsummer. The sour-sweet taste lends itself well for jams, jellies, compotes, and fruit tarts when cooked. The fruits can also be enjoyed fresh or dried as prunes.
  3. There are both cherry plum trees and shrubs. While often grown as a small garden tree, many cherry plum cultivars are shrubs that only reach 8-10 feet rather than 20-25 feet. These shrubby varieties are called dwarf cherry plums.
  4. The leaves emerge late and change color early. Cherry plum trees are one of the last Prunus trees to leaf out in spring. Their leaves also take on vibrant red and orange hues earlier than other stone fruits in fall.
  5. It is hardy across diverse climates. Thanks to its genetic diversity, the cherry plum and its cultivars can tolerate cold winters as low as -20° F as well as hot, humid summers. This makes it suitable for a wide geographical range.
  6. Cherry plums can have unusual leaf shapes. The classic cherry plum has ovate, finely toothed leaves 2-4 inches long. However, many new breeds have dramatically lobed, wavy, or color-variegated leaves. The ‘Kuban Comet’ cultivar has leaves that emerge red before turning green.
  7. The bark flakes artistically with age. As cherry plum trees mature, their smooth gray bark begins cracking vertically into small plates or flakes. This creates intriguing texture and patterns to the trunk and branches.
  8. It blooms very early in spring. Opening as early as mid-February in mild zones, the almond-scented, light pink or white flowers appear on bare branches. This provides a welcome sign of spring.
  9. Bees love the nectar-rich blossoms. Cherry plum flowers have abundant nectaries that attract honeybees, native bees, and other early spring pollinators looking for forage. Each flower can produce a single plum if successfully pollinated.
  10. Flowering intensity varies by cultivar. While some types of cherry plums have prolific, showy spring blooms, others cultivate only scattered but still fragrant blossoms. The variety ‘Thundercloud’ is prized for its clouds of pink flowers and deep red foliage.
  11. The small fruits often go unnoticed. Since cherry plum fruits only reach about 1 inch wide, they can go overlooked among the leaves. Birds compete with humans to consume these sweet-tart, nutrient-dense treats!
  12. It can sucker aggressively. Cherry plum sends up dense shoots, called suckers, from its shallow root system. If left unchecked in ideal growing conditions, suckers may need vigorous pruning to keep growth contained.
  13. Some varieties have ornamental value all year. Between the early spring flowers, colorful summer foliage, fall color, and architectural winter form, certain cherry plum trees offer four-season visual appeal. These include ‘Krauter Vesuvius’ and ‘Mt. St. Helens’.
  14. Cherry plums attract birds. The small size and sweet-tart flavor of cherry plums appeal to birds. Allowing some fruit to remain on the tree can attract beautiful species like bluebirds, mockingbirds, orioles, and tanagers to your garden.
  15. It can thrive in challenging exposures. Thanks to its hardy nature, cherry plum selections like ‘Saratoga’ and ‘Thundercloud’ do well in difficult areas prone to pollution, salt, or wind. This makes them ideal for urban and coastal landscapes.
  16. Some cultivars have purple-black leaves. While green foliage is the norm, deep reddish-purple leaves create an unusual spectacle on varieties like ‘Hollywood’, ‘Kuban Comet’, and ‘Thundercloud’. The dark leaves contrast with the pale pink or white spring blooms.

Conclusion

From its early blossoms to its wildlife value and ornamental traits, the cherry plum is a versatile plant suited to gardens across varied climates and landscapes. These 16 facts demonstrate why this underrated fruit tree continues to be a cherished addition to any outdoor space.

The genetic variability and adaptability of cherry plums give rise to new and improved cultivars each year. Whether grown for its fruit or its beauty, the cherry plum has cemented its place in horticulture.


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