TREES & plants

Wild plum

A thicket of wild plums in full flower.

Wild plum, also called American plum is a small, fast-growing, short-lived, colony-forming native tree, commonly found along fencerows, open fields, and roadsides. Abundant tiny white flowers open before the leaves emerge in spring. Plums appear in late summer.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

Botanical name: 
Prunus americana
All Common Names: 
wild plum, American red plum, August plum, hog plum
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area, 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks, 
  • Under utility lines
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen, 
  • Utility
Size Range: 
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
Mature Height: 
15-25 feet
Mature Width: 
15-25 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Aggressive, 
  • Excessive sucker growth
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Spring blossoms, 
  • Fall color, 
  • Edible fruit, 
  • Showy fruit, 
  • Showy flowers
Season of Interest: 
  • Early spring, 
  • Mid spring, 
  • Early fall, 
  • Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Thicket-forming
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
  • Birds, 
  • Browsers, 
  • Insect pollinators, 
  • Medium mammals, 
  • Small mammals
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

This tree can be a high maintenance plant due to suckering and self-seeding.

Disease, pests, and problems

Susceptible to many disease and insects, including black knot, mildew, rust, root rots, fireblight, borers, mites and tent caterpillars.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 5

Native to a large portion of North America.

Bark color and texture 

Young bark is dark red-brown.  As the bark ages is peels to some degree and has a number of lenticels present.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, simple, deciduous leaves with serrate margins.   Oval to elongated leaf shape, 2 to 4 inches long.
Dark green in summer then to yellow-orange fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Showy, white to pinkish flowers in clusters in early spring.  The have an unpleasant smell.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruit are sweet, edible plums with a pink to red skin, about 1 inch in diameter.

Prunus americana or Wild plum