Prunus nigra

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Prunus nigra
Canada Plum fruiting spray 0 - Keeler.png
Fruits and leaves
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Subgenus: Prunus
Section: Prunocerasus
Species: P. nigra
Binomial name
Prunus nigra
Aiton 1789 not Desf. 1829 nor Rchb. 1832 nor Ehrh. 1790[1]
Prunus nigra range map 2.png
Natural range of Prunus nigra
  • Prunus americana var. nigra (Aiton) Waugh

Prunus nigra, the Canada plum,[3][4] Canadian plum[5] or black plum,[3] is a species of Prunus, native to eastern North America from Nova Scotia west to Minnesota and southeastern Manitoba, and south as far as Connecticut, Illinois, and Iowa.[3][6] It formerly also grew in Ohio but is now thought to be extinct in that state.[7]


Prunus nigra is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 10 metres (33 ft) tall with a trunk up to 25 cm diameter, with a low-branched, dense crown of stiff, rigid, branches. The bark is gray-brown, older layers coming off in thick plates. The branchlets are bright green at first, later become dark brown tinged with red, and spiny. The winter buds are chestnut brown, long-pointed at the tip, up to 8 millimetres (0.31 in) long.[4]

The leaves are alternate, simple, oblong-ovate or obovate, 5–12 centimetres (2.0–4.7 in) long and 3–7 centimetres (1.2–2.8 in) broad, wedge-shaped or slightly heart-shaped or rounded at base, doubly crenaulate-serrate, abruptly contracted to a narrow point at the apex, feather-veined, midrib conspicuous; they emerge from the bud convolute, downy, slightly tinged with red, are smooth, becoming bright green above and paler beneath when full grown. The leaf petioles are stout, bearing two large dark glands and early deciduous, lanceolate or three to five-lobed stipules.[4]

The flowers are 15–25 millimetres (0.59–0.98 in) diameter, with five rounded petals, white fading to pale pink, with a more or less irregularly notched margin; they are slightly fragrant, borne in three to four-flowered umbels, with short, thick peduncles, and appear before the leaves in mid to late spring. The flower stalks are slender and dark red. The calyx is conic, dark red, five-lobed, the lobes acute, finally reflexed, glandular, smooth on the inner surface, imbricate in bud, ovate, with short claws, imbricate in bud. There are 15–20 stamens, inserted on the calyx tube; filaments thread-like; anthers purplish, introrse, two-celled; cells opening longitudinally; the pistil has a superior ovary in the bottom of calyx tube, one-celled, with two ovules.[4]

The fruit is an oblong-oval drupe, 25–30 millimetres (0.98–1.18 in) long with a tough, thick, orange red skin, free from bloom, yellow flesh adherent to the stone; the stone oval, compressed. It matures in late summer or early autumn. The cotyledons are thick and fleshy. The species grows best in alluvial soils.[7][8][9][4]

It can easily be confused with the related Prunus americana, differing most obviously in the leaf margins having blunt, gland-tipped teeth, rather than the sharp, glandless teeth of P. americana leaves.[7]

A fungus in the genus Taphrina often attacks the plums; the young ovaries swell, often much larger than full grown plums, become hollow and often persist on the tree in winter. Known as "plum pockets", they appear pale green, leathery to the touch, and hollow with the exception of a few fibrous bands. The disease reduces regeneration of the plums.[8][9]


The fruit is eaten raw or cooked and is made into preserves and jellies.[9]

The wood is bright red brown; heavy, hard, strong and close-grained, with a density of 0.6918.[9]


  1. ^ The International Plant Names Index
  2. ^ The Plant List, Prunus nigra Aiton
  3. ^ a b c "Prunus nigra". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Retrieved May 17, 2007. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Flora of North America, Prunus nigra Aiton, 1789. Canada plum, prunier noir
  5. ^ "Prunus nigra". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 14 October 2015. 
  6. ^ Biota of North America Program 2014 county distribution map
  7. ^ a b c "Prunus nigra Aiton Canada Plum". Ohio DNR. Retrieved May 17, 2007. 
  8. ^ a b New Brunswick tree and shrub species of concern: Prunus nigra
  9. ^ a b c d Keeler, H. L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scriber's Sons. pp. 119–122.