Wild Plum

Prunus americana


Illustration of wild plum leaves, flowers, fruits.
Wild plum, Prunus americana.
Paul Nelson

Rosaceae (roses)


Wild plum is a shrub that propagates itself by root sprouts to form thickets, or it can be a small tree with spreading, more or less hanging, branches.

Leaves are alternate, simple, 2½–4 inches long, 1½–2 inches wide, broadest at or below the middle; margin sharply toothed; upper surface dark green, lower surface paler and net-veined.

Bark is dark brown to reddish, breaking into thin, long, scaly plates, pores horizontal and prominent.

Twigs are slender, smooth, green to orange to reddish-brown; lateral branches spurlike or sometimes thorny; pores circular, raised, minute buds smooth (without hairs).

Flowers April–May, in clusters of 2–5, stalks ¼–¾ inch long, smooth; flowers ¾–1¼ inches broad, white, fragrant; petals 5, broadest at the middle, rounded at the tip, and narrow at the base; stamens about 20.

Fruits July–September, in clusters with 1–5 fruits; fruit usually ¾–1 inch long, globe-shaped, red or sometimes yellow, conspicuously marked with pale dots; skin tough; flesh yellow and juicy, varying in flavor.

Similar species: Several other small trees bloom in spring with white, five-petaled flowers. Serviceberry has petals that are bright white, strap-shaped, wavy, with a space between them (not rounded and close together). The invasive Callery (or Bradford) pear has white petals that are rounded and close together (they touch/overlap at their bases); its flower stamens are not longer than the petals; and the flowers are unpleasant-smelling. Apple and crabapple flowers have a slightly pink hue.


Height: to 20 feet.

Habitat and conservation

Occurs in woodlands, pastures, and thickets. A fast-growing, short-lived small tree that has been planted in parks and orchards for its attractive, fragrant flowers and edible fruits. There are many horticultural forms and hybrids of this popular shrub.

image of Wild Plum distribution map
Distribution in Missouri



There are many species of plums (genus Prunus) in Missouri, but this is one of the most common.

Human connections

The fruit makes excellent jellies and preserves; may be eaten raw or cooked. Rated as the best fruit plum in the Midwest and North regions. A popular landscaping shrub with showy white flowers. Many hybrids and cultivars exist.

Ecosystem connections

The fruit is eaten by many species of birds, including bobwhite. Deer, raccoons, and squirrels relish the fruit as well. This tree is an early colonizer of old pastures and other once-disturbed landscapes that are reverting back to forest.