Prunus maritima

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Prunus maritima
Prunus maritima.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Subgenus: Prunus subg. Prunus
Section: Prunus sect. Prunocerasus
P. maritima
Binomial name
Prunus maritima
  • Prunus acuminata Hook.f.
  • Prunus acuminata Michx.
  • Prunus gravesii Small
  • Prunus maritima var. gravesii (Small) G.J.Anderson
  • Prunus declinata Marsh.
  • Prunus lancifolia Clav.
  • Prunus littoralis Bigel.
  • Prunus poiretiana Heynh.
  • Prunus pubescens Pursh
  • Prunus pygmaea Willd.
  • Prunus reclinata Bosc ex Spach
  • Prunus sphaerica Willd.

Prunus maritima, the beach plum,[2] is a species of plum native to the East Coast of the United States. It is a choice wild edible and its few pests and salt tolerance make it a resilient fruit crop for degraded lands and urban soils.


Prunus maritima is a deciduous shrub, in its natural sand dune habitat growing 1–2 meters (3+126+12 feet) tall, although it can grow larger, up to 4 m (13 ft) tall, when cultivated in gardens. The leaves are alternate, elliptical, 3–7 centimeters (1+142+34 inches) long and 2–4 cm (341+12 in) broad, with a sharply toothed margin. They are green on top and pale below, becoming showy red or orange in the autumn. The flowers are 1–1.5 cm (3858 in) in diameter, with five white petals and large yellow anthers. The fruit is an edible drupe 1.5–2 cm (5834 in) in diameter in the wild plant, red, yellow, blue, or nearly black.[3][4]

The plant is salt-tolerant and cold-hardy. It prefers the full sun and well-drained soil. It spreads roots by putting out suckers but in coarse soil puts down a taproot. In dunes it is often partly buried in drifting sand. It blooms in mid-May and June. The fruit ripens in August and early September.

The species is endangered in Maine, where it is in serious decline due to commercial development of its beach habitats.[3]


The species was first described by Marshall in 1785 as Prunus maritima, the "Sea side Plumb".[5] A few sources cite Wangenheim as the author,[6] though Wangenheim's publication dates to 1787, two years later than Marshall's.

A plant with rounded leaves, of which only a single specimen has ever been found in the wild, has been described as P. maritima var. gravesii (Small) G.J.Anderson,[7] though its taxonomic status is questionable, and it may be better considered a cultivar P. maritima 'Gravesii'.[8] The original plant, found in Connecticut, died in the wild in about 2000, but it is maintained in cultivation from rooted cuttings.[7]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The species can be found from Maine south to Maryland.[9][10] Although sometimes listed as extending north to Canada's New Brunswick, the species is not known from collections there and does not appear in the most authoritative works on the flora of that province.[11]


The species is grown commercially for fruit and value added products like jam.[12] Taste of ripe fruit is prevailingly sweet, though individual bushes range in flavor and some are sour or slightly bitter. About the size of grapes, beach plums are much smaller in size when compared to the longer cultivated Asian varieties found in the supermarket, though are resilient to many North American stone fruit pests, such as black knot fungus. A number of cultivars have been selected for larger and better-flavored fruit, including Resigno, Jersey Gem (Rutgers),[13] ECOS, Eastham, Hancock and Squibnocket.[14]

Natali Vineyards in Goshen, New Jersey, produces a wine from beach plums.[15] Greenhook Ginsmiths in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York, makes a gin flavored with beach plums.[16]


Places named after the beach plum include Plum Island, Massachusetts, Plum Island, New York, Plum Cove Beach in Lanesville, Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Beach Plum Island State Park in Sussex County, Delaware.[citation needed]

Fresh and dried, it was used extensively by Native Americans and eventually colonists. It is experiencing a revival in popularity with the resurgence of foraging, the local food movement, and the prominence of native species selection in permaculture design.



  1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  2. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Prunus maritima". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  3. ^ a b Maine Department of Conservation Natural Areas Program: Archived 2012-03-11 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  5. ^ Marshall, H. (1785). Arbustrum Americanum: The American Grove, Or, An Alphabetical Catalogue of Forest Trees and Shrubs, Natives of the American United States, Arranged According to the Linnaean System, p. 112. Joseph Crukshank, Philadelphia.
  6. ^ Grier, N. M., & Grier, C. R. (1929). A List of Plants Growing Under Cultivation in the Vicinity of Cold Spring Harbor, New York. American Midland Naturalist 11: 307–387.
  7. ^ a b Center for Plant Conservation: Prunus maritima var. gravesii Archived 2009-08-25 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ University of Connecticut: Prunus maritima 'Gravesii' Archived 2007-01-21 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Prunus maritima". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  10. ^ United States Department of Agriculture Plants Profile: Prunus maritima
  11. ^ Hinds, Harold R., 2002, Flora of New Brunswick, 2nd ed., Fredericton, New Brunswick.
  12. ^ Cornell University Department of Horticulture: Beach Plum
  13. ^
  14. ^ University of Connecticut: Prunus maritima Archived 2007-08-04 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Preston, Marjorie. "To save coastal dunes, here’s a plum good idea" in Shore News Today (20 October 2010). Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  16. ^ Greenhook Ginsmiths. Retrieved 22 July 2017.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]