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Wild Plum Tree and Wild Plums

Wild plum trees offer attractive foliage, shade, and ample fruit. Fruit trees are a great addition to any landscape, and they add value to a home. Read on to learn more about this amazing plant!

Wild Plum Tree in a Field
Wild plum tree and fields in the frosty winter sunny day.

History of the Wild Plum Tree

Wild Plum Trees are native to the Americas and Asia, and indigenous people used the tree and its fruit for culinary and medicinal purposes. They are part of the Rosaceae, or rose family.

The native Dakota tribes used the plants fruit and bark as a food source. When they had many plums, they would dry them to save for later eating.

In nature, the wild plum tree is an essential part of the wildlife habitat. It provides food and shelter to various types of birds and mammals.

Rabbits hide in the low branches as well as deer. Prairie chickens, pheasants and grouse take cover in the thickets and roost there in the winter. Songbirds like cardinals and finches also live in the plum trees.

There is an active conservation project to help restore the population of this species in states such as Ohio and Kentucky. People are encouraged to distribute the seed and grow the tree.

The wild plum is a native species that tolerates weather conditions well and thrive in a variety of soil types. It is easy to care for and produces hundreds of fruits enjoyed by both animals and people. The natural thicket-like growth pattern when left undisturbed also helps give natural environment to animals. Consider adding the wild plum to your garden today for a medicinal and beautiful fruit tree.

Wild Plum Tree Characteristics

wild plum tree
Blossoming wild plum tree.

The wild plum tree is built to last through cold winters and hot summers. It’s a medium sized tree and it  is deciduous, with leaf fall during the fall and winter and full foliage in the spring and summer. The bark when it is young is dark, and as it matures it peels. In nature, the original tree is in the center of a thicket, with many smaller trees growing near it. 

Most mature trees produce fruit around age four to five, and many require cross pollination. The taste and consistency of the fruit is pretty much the same wherever they grew. Many foragers appreciate the dependability of this fruit.

Planting Zones

The right planting zone helps make any investment in a tree worthwhile. Its native range is in the upper midwest from Chicago area, Minnesota and extends to California. Planting zones recommended for the wild plum tree are from zones three to zones 8

Its native spread in Minnesota was in the savannahs and grasslands, and it grows well pretty much anywhere. As they originate from the area, they do very well and are adaptable to a variety of climates.


Size and Spacingof Wild Plum Trees

These plants are often used in public fields or parks, as they do not get excessively tall and are a medium to large size plant that can reach heights of up to 25 feet.

Its fruits are about the size of a cherry or a large half dollar. The plant grows in a thicket shape, with a moderate annual growth rate. It grows in numerous areas, including along the side of roads, near rivers, in grassy pastures, and around the clear, sunny edges of woods. They will be found near trees like elderberry, ash, hawthorn, and aspen.

It is commonly used as a tree in a natural fencerow, or on the perimeter of areas as it does best in full light.

Pollination

Many white flowers appear on the branches of the tree in spring and summer. They do not self pollinate and many will need to be cross pollinated with another tree. The plums will develop to maturity in the summer. It is pollinated by insect pollinators. 

Tree Care

With the right care, you can help your tree to last for decades! See more about its ideal conditions.

Sunlight

The tree does best in full sun, with light exposure up to 6 hours a day. It will also fruit in partial shade. They are an open-habitat tree that will not do well if they have a lot of shade or heavily forested area.

Watering

Water is essential for healthy leaves and fruit! Water new trees at least once a week, and give established trees a deep watering every month. It needs regular watering and prefers well drained soil. When they are near riverbanks they can draw water from natural sources. 

Pruning

Encourage bushier plants with more yield, rather than taller trees with inasccesible plums, with regular pruning. The tree is a shrub-like tree, and it can reach in excess of 25 feet tall.

Like many fruit trees, such as the apple, the wild plum tree will have too man “suckers,” or non-fruiting branches, growing from the trunk. Prune these with sharp shears to encourage resource and energy flow to the branches with flowers to make the best quality fruits.

For more info, check out our post on Pruning Plum Trees.

Soil

The wild plum can tolerate dry sites, wet sites, alkaline soil and clay soil. It is also able to withstand acidic conditions.


Common Uses For The Fruit

Wild Plums on a Tree
Wild plums on a tree.

What Does the Wild Plum Taste Like?

This plant fruits are small and edible. The flavor  tastes distinctly sour, slightly sweet and astringent.

Cooking

Plums are often cooked to help preserve them for later use. They fruit abundantly in a short season once a year, so cooking them lets you to enjoy them even when they are not fresh.

Because of their tart flavor, many people will bake them and use them in tarts, pastries or pies.

Another option is to eat them fresh!

Eating Raw

Many people can and do enjoy eating the fruit of the wild plum trees right off the branches. Be sure they are red or purple for the best flavor. If they are still green or yellow then they have not yet fully ripened.

Birds, animals and human foragers have always enjoyed the enticing vermilion fruit and its sweet and juicy flesh.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

Canning Plums

One way to enjoy the flavor of wild plum is with wild plum syrup. This conserves it in a sweet syrup to be enjoyed in tea, ice cream, or yogurt.

Mash is made by simmering the ripe plums with water and sugar. Then, strain the mixture of its skins and pits. The portion that remains of the meats and juice is wild plum jam.

They can be frozen as well and defrosted when they are to be used or eaten. They will last for about six months in the freezer when they are frozen.

Drying plums has always produced a delicious and nutritious snack.

They will keep for a very long time. Dried plums (or prunes) are an excellent lunchtime treat or pick me up.

You can dry them in a dehydrator.  Reference your machine’s guide to see the recommended setting and time for plums. You may also use a conventional oven to dry plums. As they are drying, they will release a lot of juice, so be sure to figure out a way to catch it. The temperature should be between 175° – 200° F. Lower temperatures work best when drying plums, as it lets the fluid slowly dissolve and will not burn or crisp the exterior skin. While they are drying, check on them and flip them for more even drying.

Sun drying plums is also an option. This may be the method that takes the most amount of time. However, it is also the simplest and least expensive. Place the plums in a rack outside in the sun when the temperature is at least 85 degrees and humidity is less than 60%. Monitor them and see how well they dry.

Health Benefits of the Wild Plum

Wild plums are full of vital nutrients. They contain vitamin A, which is necessary for healthy eyes, skin and nails. They also have beta carotene which helps the body with converting the vitamin A. It is also a useful nutrient for combating free radicals and oxidative stress. Another abundant mineral in wild plums is potassium. Potassium works to provide a healthy heart and nervous system and has benefits for mental health. It also helps to regulate fluid levels, blood pressure and is a necessary component in kidney health.

Plums also have fiber in them, which helps the metabolism and the body work its best.

The bark and roots also were traditionally used as a food source. They contain phloretin, an antibacterial agent.that can be boiled in a tea or used in a poultice.

Traditional medicinal preparations include scraped bark boiled and applied to scrapes or cuts to assist with healing. The fruit was also crushed and mixed with salt for oral sores. Ground roots or bark was a remedy for gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea.

The sticks of the plant were used in a wunyampi ceremony by the Dakota Indians, which is where the sick were prayed for. They peeled and painted the sticks, then bound them together into wands used during the ceremony.

Check out the full health benefits of plums here.

Man planting a plum tree
Planting a Plum Tree.

Where To Buy The Wild Plum

If you’re looking to purchase a plum tree online, check out Nature Hills Nursery. You may be able to find one at a local nursery, fruit stand, or farmer’s markets. Ask around with the local master gardeners or horticulturists and they will be sure to help you.

  

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