American plum

  • Prunus americana
  • Wild plum


Winter cover Summer coverEscape coverFood
Dense foliage of wild plum

The dense foliage of wild plum offers good thermal refuge from intense summer heat.

Scott Sudkamp, Missouri Department of Conservation

Fragrant white flowers

Wild plum is among the first flowers of spring. Fragrant white flowers occur in clusters of two to five and have five petals.

Missouri Department of Conservation


Fruits are fleshy red drupes 3/4 inch to 1 inch long.

The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, Oklahoma

Wild plum leaf

Wild plum leaves are simple and alternately arranged. They range from 2-1/2 to 4 inches long and are dark green with a pointed tip and toothed margin.

Scott Sudkamp, Missouri Department of Conservation


American plum occurs in woodlands, pastures and thickets throughout the Midwest. This species can grow as a small tree up to 20 feet high but more commonly occurs in colonies or thickets by sending up root suckers and shoots. The leaves are egg-shaped, simple and alternate. The twigs are slender and smooth and may have spurlike branches or thorns. The bark breaks into long, thin, scaly plates and is covered with lenticels. It is one of the first shrubs to bloom in spring with showy clusters of fragrant white flowers. The globe-shaped fruit is variable in size and ripens from July through September. Ripe fruits are red, sweet and desirable to wildlife, as they are to makers of jellies, preserves and pies.

Another species, Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia), is common in the southern Great Plains.

Use by bobwhites

This species' most valuable attribute in quail habitat is as covey headquarters. The dense canopy of leaves in summer shades out plants on the ground, providing ideal loafing cover and escape from the heat of summer days. Twigs of multiple plants intertwine to provide excellent winter cover and an almost impenetrable barrier to predators. The fruit of American plum is eaten by many species of wildlife, including bobwhites.