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Blackthorn or sloe is a large deciduous shrub to small tree reaching 9 to 12 feet high with blackish-brown bark and dense, stiff, spiny branches. Native to Europe and western Asia. May be difficult to find in nurseries.

Botanical name:

Prunus spinosa

All Common Names:

blackthorn; sloe

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Windbreak

Size Range:

  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)

Mature Height:

9 to 12 feet high

Mature Width:

8 to 10 feet wide

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil,
  • Sandy soil


  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil,
  • Road salt

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Tolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Intolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • May be difficult to find in nurseries

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Showy fruit

Season of Interest:

  • Mid spring,
  • Early fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Open,
  • Oval,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

A stiff, shrubby plant  found in sunny hedgerows and wood edges.
Often confused with plum cherry (Prunus cerasifera
Plants reach 8 feet high and 12 feet wide, sometimes more tree-like about 16 feet high.
Prefers well-drained, slightly acidic to neutral soil pH in full sun to light shade.

Disease, pests, and problems

Cankers, leaf spots and borers

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Salt tolerant

Native geographic location and habitat

Europe, Scandinavia, Siberia and Iran

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Fleshy fruit attracts songbirds and game birds.

Bark color and texture 

Stiff, blackish-brown, spiny branches.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate. Leaves are elliptical to oval, 11/2 to 2  inches long with a pointed tip and serrated leaf margins. 
Dark green changing to yellow fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Five-petaled, creamy-white flowers in small cluster in early spring before leaves emerge.
Flowers are insect pollinated.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruit is a black berry with a purple-blue waxy bloom, ripening in autumn.
Berries are tart and astringent, often used in jams and for medicinal purposes.


Location of Prunus spinosa (Blackthorn) at the Arboretum