Beach Plum

Beach_Plum_jpgThe Rosaceae family commonly called the Rose Family consists of 107 genera and 3,100 species of herbs, shrubs and trees; most common in temperate and subtropical regions of the Northern Hemisphere.  The family is of great economic importance, providing us with fruits such as apples, cherries, plums, peaches, raspberries and strawberries and with ornamentals. The species name, maritime, means “growing by the sea”.  Beach Plum is a common shrub along New Jersey’s coastal strip and the fruit has long been a treat for late-season beach-goers.  In earlier times “beachplumming” rivaled “chestnutting” and “huckleberrying” in popularity.  The fruit is excellent for jam, jelly, wine, or favoring for pastry. In the United States, there are 16 plants in this genus, Prunus, known as wild plums.  Plum thickets furnish valuable protective shelter.  Small mammals such as fox eat the fruit.  Birds do not often feast on the fruit of Beach Plum.Beach Plum is in the process of being domesticated as a fruit product.  This experimental research requires several years of hybridization and genetic selection before a fruit will be ready for market. Beach Plum withstands salt and wind.  It is also drought tolerant and shade tolerant. Away from coastal area, this shrub becomes tree-like and the fruit is frequently destroyed by brown rot fungus at ripening time.  The salt spray of the coastal sand dune areas appears to act as a natural antifungal agent.

OtherCommonName:

Sandplum

ScientificName:

Prunus maritima

Community:

Thicket

PlantStatus:

Native

LifeSpan:

Perennial

PlantHeight:

3 to 7 feet

FruitingTime:

Early September to October

Distribution:

New England to Maryland ~ Throughout the Coastal Plains and up tidal streams into the Pine Barrens in New Jersey

FloweringTime:

Late April to May

IdentifyingCharacteristics:

Stems moderately stout, brown to purple-brown, downy when young ~ Leaves alternate, oblong or elliptic, sharp-or blunt-tipped, margins toothed, upper surface wrinkled ~ Flowers perfect, white, 5-petaled, solitary or in small clusters ~ Fruit one-seeded, dark purple to black, seed a hard swollen stone, flesh sweet, skin bitter, hairy stems