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Publication #ENH-670

Prunus mexicana: Mexican Plum1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

Introduction

Growing 25 to 30 feet tall with a spread of 25 feet, Mexican Plum is a North American native tree which forms an irregular canopy composed of yellow/green, shiny leaves with fuzzy undersides and thorny branches. In spring, the trees are smothered with fragrant, white blooms which are followed by purple/red, juicy fruits. These tart fruits can be used to make jams and jellies. The blooms help make Mexican Plum ideal for use as a specimen tree but it also fits in nicely in the naturalized landscape as an understory tree. The gray/black, ridged and furrowed bark is quite attractive, and the deciduous leaves turn a showy orange color in fall before dropping.

Figure 1. 

Middle-aged Prunus mexicana: Mexican Plum


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Prunus mexicana
Pronunciation: PROO-nus meck-sih-KAY-nuh
Common name(s): Mexican Plum
Family: Rosaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 6B through 8B (Fig. 2)
Origin: native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: container or planter; deck or patio; specimen; highway median
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the tree

Figure 2. 

Range


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Description

Height: 25 to 30 feet
Spread: 20 to 25 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: round
Crown density: open
Growth rate: slow
Texture: medium

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: serrate
Leaf shape: ovate, elliptic (oval), obovate
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: orange
Fall characteristic: showy

Figure 3. 

Foliage


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: white/cream/gray
Flower characteristics: showy

Fruit

Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: 1 to 3 inches
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: red, purple
Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches don't droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; no thorns
Pruning requirement: little required
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: gray, brown
Current year twig thickness: thin
Wood specific gravity: unknown

Culture

Light requirement: full sun
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: moderate
Aerosol salt tolerance: unknown

Other

Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: sensitive
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: susceptible
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

This small tree is well suited for residential landscapes. It might be best to locate the tree back from the edge of a patio, deck or walk since the fruits can be a little messy for a short period in the summer or early fall. When planted in the lawn or in a bed of low-growing ground cover, fruits drop unnoticed and are of no concern. The tree can be a `show stopper' when it is in bloom. It makes a nice tree for planting near power lines due to its small size.

Mexican Plum should be grown in full sun or partial shade on well-drained, rich soil but will tolerate almost any soil. It is quite drought-tolerant once established.

Pests or Diseases

None of major concern.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH-670, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.