Prunus fasciculata

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Prunus fasciculata
Prunus fasciculata 4.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
P. fasciculata
Binomial name
Prunus fasciculata
  • Emplectocladus fasciculata Torr.
  • Amygdalus fasciculata (Torr.) Greene

Prunus fasciculata, also known as wild almond, desert almond, or desert peach[2] is a spiny and woody shrub producing wild almonds, native to the deserts of Arizona, California, Baja California, Nevada and Utah.[3][4][5][6][7]

Prunus fasciculata lives many years (is perennial), and drops its leaves (deciduous).[4][8][9] It prefers sandy or rocky soil on dry slopes and washes, usually below 7,000 feet (2,100 m) elevation.[3]


Prunus fasciculata grows up to 2 metres (6 ft 6.7 in) high, exceptionally to 3 metres (9.8 ft), with many horizontal (divaricate) branches, generally with thorns (spinescent), often in thickets. The bark is grey and without hairs (glabrous).[10]

This male has flowers with 10-15 stamens that are clustered with leaves in fascicles.
Branches with smooth grey bark bear clusters of narrow leaves and small flowers.

The leaves are 5–20 millimetres (0.2–0.8 in) long, narrow (linear), with a broad, flatten tip that tapers to a narrow base, (spatulate, oblanceolate), arranged on very short leaf stem (petiole) like bundles of needles (fascicles). Sepals are hairless and without lobes or teeth. The flowers are small and white with 3-mm petals, occurring either solitary or in fascicles and are without a petal stem (subsessile) growing from the leaf axils. They are dioecious. Male flowers have 10-15 stamens; female, one or more pistils. The plant displays numerous fragrant flowers from March to May, which attract the bees that pollinate it. The drupe is about 1 cm long, ovoid, light brown and pubescent with thin flesh.[10][11][12]


The plant is not cultivated. Some Native Americans in its limited range learned traditional ways of using it: the Cahuilla prepared the drupe as a delicacy. The wild almonds were considered a delicacy by Native Americans. The Kawaiisu found the tough twigs useful as drills in starting fires and as the front portion of arrow shafts.[13] The seed contains too much cyanide to be edible, but see under Paleobotanical evidence below.


The plant was first classified as Emplectocladus fasciculata in an 1853 paper by John Torrey based on a collection of the plants of California acquired during the third expedition of John C. Fremont in 1845;[14] whence the synonym Emplectocladus fasciculata (Torr.)[15] The work was illustrated by Isaac Sprague. Torrey devised the genus Empectocladus to comprise a few desert shrubs. According to Silas C. Mason[16] the genus has

"... a top so densely branched, angled and interlocked as to well merit the name Emplectocladus (Greek, "woven branch"), signifying interlocked branches ...."

According to George Bentham and Joseph Dalton Hooker[17] the name fasciculata means that the leaves are in fascicles, or little bundles:

"Leaves small, spatulate, as it were of precious stones, subglobose fasciculate"[18]

However, Asa Gray publishing in 1874 reclassified Empectocladus to Prunus resulting in the designation Prunus fasciculata (Torr.) A. Gray (subg. Emplectocladus), in which the desert shrubs become a subgenus.[19] In 1996 Jepson[9] defined a California variety with smooth leaves, punctata, in comparison to which Gray's species, with pubescent leaves, becomes the variety, fasciculata. Unfortunately, the binomial Prunus punctata was already used in 1878 to describe what is now known to be Prunus phaeosticta.[20] Prunus fasciculata punctata grows in the coastal ranges as well as in the desert.[10][21][22]

Palaeobotanical evidence[edit]

Middens from rodent activities such as those of the Pack rat are a rich source of plant macrofossils from late Pleistocene habitats. At Point of Rocks in Nevada by 11700 BP desert shrubs such as Desert Almond had replaced Juniper and Joshua trees, indicating the onset of the modern desert.[23] Somewhat earlier, 17000-14000 BP, Desert Almond flourished in a mixed desert and woodland ecology on the Colorado Plateau.[24]

There is some archaeological evidence that the seeds were pounded into flour and leached to make it edible by the ancient population of the Mojave desert.[25]


  1. ^ Tropicos, Prunus fasciculata (Torr.) A. Gray
  2. ^ Bailey, L.H., Bailey, E.Z., and the staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium. 1976. Hortus third: A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada. Macmillan, New York.
  3. ^ a b Sullivan, Steven. K. (2018). "Prunus fasciculata". Wildflower Search. Retrieved 2018-07-06.
  4. ^ a b "Prunus fasciculata". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  5. ^ Biota of North America Program 2014 county distribution map
  6. ^ SEINet, Southwestern Biodiversity, Arizona chapter photos, distribution map
  7. ^ Calflora taxon report, University of California, Prunus fasciculata (Torrey) A. Gray, 1874. Desert almond
  8. ^ "Emplectocladus fasciculata". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  9. ^ a b Jepson, Willis Linn (1936). A Flora of California, Volume 2. Berkeley: University of California. pp. 229–230.
  10. ^ a b c "Prunus fasciculata". in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora. Jepson Herbarium; University of California, Berkeley. 2018. Retrieved 2018-07-06.
  11. ^ Geological Survey of California (1880). Botany of California: Volume I: 2nd (Revised) Edition. Little, Brown, and Company. p. 168.
  12. ^ Rydberg, Per Axel (1917). Flora of the Rocky Mountains and Adjacent Plains: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Neighboring Parts of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and British Columbia. New York: Published by the Author. p. 452.
  13. ^ Moerman, Daniel E. (1998). Native American Ethnobotany. Portland, Cambridge: Timber Press. p. 442. ISBN 978-0-88192-453-4.
  14. ^ This famous expedition combined scientific and military operations, merging into the war with Mexico of 1848 and the acquisition of California for the United States. Fremont's mandate had been to explore Oregon. He followed secret orders to establish a presence in California. Apparently he did accomplish both scientific and military objectives (but not in Oregon) and the pre-publication in Torrey's paper of his remaining plant specimens (some had been lost on the Missouri) helped him during his later prosecutions for insubordination.
  15. ^ Torrey, John (1854). "Plantae Fremontianae; or Descriptions of Plants Collected by Col. J. C. Fremont, in California". Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge Volume 6 Paper 1. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution. The contents of this volume are stated in The American Catalogue of Books (1856). London: Sampson Low, Son & Co. p. 59. The paper, however, had already been published independently in April, 1853, according to Karslake, Frank (1971). Book-Auction Records. London, New York and Edinburgh: Dawsons of Pall Mall. p. 1050.
  16. ^ Mason, Silas C. (1911). "Bureau of Plant Industry". Bulletins of the Bureau of Plant Industry Nos. 192 to 197 Inclusive 1910-1911. XXV. Washington: Government Printing Office. p. 24.
  17. ^ Bentham, George; Hooker, Joseph Dalton (1865). Genera plantarum ad exemplaria imprimis in herbariis kewensibus servata definita Volume I Part II. London: Lovell Reeve & Co. p. 614.
  18. ^ "Folia minuta, spathulata, e gemmis subglobosis quasi fasciculata ...."
  19. ^ "Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1874)". 10:70.
  20. ^ The Flora of British India 2(5): 317. 1878.
  21. ^ "ITIS Report".
  22. ^ Stuart, John David; Sawyer, John O. (2001). Trees and Shrubs of California. University of California Press. p. 305. ISBN 978-0-520-22109-3.
  23. ^ Sauer, Jonathan Deininger (1988). Plant Migration: the dynamics of geographic patterning in seed plant species. University of California Press. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-520-06871-1.
  24. ^ Anderson, R. Scott; Betancourt, Julio L.; Mead, Jim I.; Hevly, Richard H.; Adam, David P. (2000). "Middle- and late-Wisconsin paleobotanic and paleoclimatic records from the southern Colorado Plateau, USA". Palaeo. 155 (1–2): 45. doi:10.1016/s0031-0182(99)00093-0. The article is available as a .pdf file at [1].
  25. ^ Bond, Elaine Miller (Summer 2000). "Reading between the rocks: Exploring the connection between land and humans in the Granite Mountains" (PDF). Transect. 18 (1): 23.

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