We can find more than 200 types of wild plums in many places all around the United States. Wild plum comes in different colors, like red, yellow, and orange. Despite its name “wild plums,” you don’t have to fear that the fruit is toxic and dangerous when eaten, because it isn’t. In fact, wild plums are a great fruit to snack on if you are hiking or camping and happen to come by a tree during its fruit-bearing season. Know that you’d be lucky if you can find ripe wild plums since this fruit is a favorite snack also of many birds and animals.
And even if it is not a fruit-bearing season, it is also a good thing if you see wild plum trees growing in your area because these trees also serve as windbreaks, shielding homes, people, and infrastructure from the onslaught of powerful winds. The roots of wild plum trees help hold rainwater and prevent flooding.
Subgenus: Prunus subg. Prunus
Section: Prunus sect. Prunocerasus
Species: P. americana
Binomial name: Prunus americana
Wild Plum Trivia
- Wild plums are also called American plums.
- To those who are unaware, it is easy to confuse wild plum with Canadian plum.
- The white flowers of the wild plums serve an ornamental and decorative purpose. This is the reason why the wild plum trees are used in residential landscapes.
- Wild plums are part of the diet of the Plains Indians and Cheyenne, while the Navajo used wild plum roots to make a red dye.
Wild Plum Buying Guide
Seeing wild plums sold in stores or grocery stores is very unlikely because these are wild plums that anyone can forage. The plums you will commonly see in the market are any of these: Japanese or Chinese plums, European plums like Damson and Mirabelle, cherry plums, or Russian plums. If there is a local grower who harvests wild plums and sells them in the farmers market, that’s your chance to buy some wild plums.
Just in case you find some wild plums for sale, on a farmers market, or a roadside farmstand, remember the same reminders regarding buying commercially grown plums. Feel the fruit with your fingers. They should not easily get crushed if you apply even just a little pressure. If this happens, it means the wild plums are already overripe. There should be no blemishes, dark spots, or holes in the fruit. Buy depending on what your plans are – if it is just for snacking, buy just enough. If you want to make jams, jellies, or preserves, buy more wild plums.
You can also buy young wild plum plants in nurseries if you are interested in growing them in your backyard. There are also vendors selling American plum seeds if you want to start growing your wild plum from seed.
Wild Plum Production & Farming in Texas
Wild plum propagates naturally by seed. The tree of the wild plum can grow coarse-textured soil or medium-textured soils, but silt, clay, or any fine soil will not do for growing wild plum trees. Make sure the soil drains well. If the place has a cool or temperate climate, you can grow a wild plum tree here. Wild plum trees prefer growing in Zone 3 to 8. The wild plum tree is winter-hardy and they thrive on neglect, which explains why they were able to survive in the wild. What it finds challenging is growing in the shade and experiencing drought. You will notice the wild plum tree growing in the spring or summer. The flowers, small white flowers with five petals, will bloom in the middle of spring. The wild plum tree has a broad crown. The height of wild plum trees varies from 15 to 25 feet. Be careful in climbing a wild plum tree because the branches are usually thorny.
According to a Texas Parks and Wildlife article, there are many species of wild plum growing in many places in Texas. Wild plums in Texas flower from March to April. It will start to bear fruit starting in June until July.
Even though wild plums grow in the wild even in neglect, they are still vulnerable to pests and disease. So if you are growing wild plums in your backyard, you should be aware of the potential problems regarding pests and diseases and how to manage these using chemicals.
- Tent caterpillars – Use a selective insecticide like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is considered the most effective.
- Borers – Use man-made pesticide carbaryl, broad-spectrum, pyrethroid-based insecticides like permethrin, or the pyrethroid insecticide bifenthrin to rid your wild plum tree of borers.
- Aphids – Kill aphids using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.
- Scale – Use systemic insecticides like acephate, imidacloprid, and dinotefuran.
- Plum curculio – Use phosmet or carbaryl.
- Brown rot – Consider using any of these fungicides to prevent or manage brown rot in your wild plum tree: azoxystrobin, benomyl, chlorothalonil, copper sulfate, fenbuconazole, iprodione, myclobutanil, propiconazole, sulfur, thiophanate-methyl, triforine, and vinclozolin.
- Black knot – A dormant spray of lime sulfur, or using the fungicide thiophanate-methyl, is recommended for black knot management.
- Leaf spot – Use Boscalid, a fungicide that is nontoxic to terrestrial animals and is moderately toxic to aquatic animals
Wild plum is native to North America, including the Canadian province of Saskatchewan and Québec, the northwestern U.S. state of Idaho, the Southwestern state of New Mexico, the northeasternmost U.S. state of Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Utah, Georgia, and the southeasternmost U.S. state of Florida.
However, true to its name “wild plum,” it is not surprising that the tree bearing this fruit is seen outside its native range, escaping cultivation.
Enjoying Wild Plums
Wild plum is very flavorful and tasty when you eat it. Wild plums taste sour and sweet. If the ones you have are tart or very sour, it is best if it is eaten after it is cooked, made into jams or jellies, and cooked with sugar to improve the flavor.
Here are some tips for storing your wild plums.
- If your wild plums are still unripe, keep them at room temperature (at the counter or on the table) until they are ripe. When these are finally ripe, you can put them in a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate them. There, the wild plums will last for 3 to 5 days.
- You can also freeze your ripe wild plums. Make sure to clean them and cut them into halves. Remove the pit and put these in a freezer bag. In the freezer, the wild plums will remain in good quality for 6 months.
- The last option is to make wild plum preserves. This is a great way to save wild plums and keep them from rotting. A homemade fruit preserve will keep for at least three months after the bottle or jar has been opened. Unopened preserves can last longer.
Wild plum can be used in making preserves, jellies, and jams. Some people use wild plums to make wine. You can pickle wild plums and make plum chow chow. These fruits may be small but you can still grill them and use them as a garnish for salads. If you have tart or sour wild plums, the best way to sweeten them is by making caramelized wild plums. If you enjoy baking, a bowl of wild plums is a sign to make a plum cake, don’t you think? Puree plums to make plum sauce or make plum crisps instead.
Here is what your body is getting when you eat wild plum: vitamin A for your eyes, skin, and nails; potassium for your heart, nervous system, mental health, and kidney health; and fiber for metabolism and improved bodily function. Wild plums are used for medicinal purposes; crush them and mix them with salt to help cure oral sores.