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):

Rose

Family (Botanic):

Rosaceae

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree

Foliage:

  • 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

Wildlife:

  • 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.

Location of Prunus americana (Wild plum) at the Arboretum