2016

 
 

Mexican plum is another under utilized tree deserving of far more attention. This native of North America is highly effective on two different levels, as both a superior ornamental and as a practical fruit producing tree providing a bounty for both man and wildlife.

As an ornamental this flowering tree can hold its own with cherries and redbuds. Every spring it is smothered in clouds of sweetly fragrant beautiful white flowers which are also a magnet for honey bees. In autumn the pretty leaves turn bright orange and red giving another eye-catching show at the end of the season. And, unlike many North American plums which  are multi-trunked, Mexican plum is single-trunked. And the trunk is particularly handsome as it becomes dark, peeling and striated with maturity providing winter-interest. So, with flower, bark, and autumn color all packaged on a conveniently small frame, you have an ornamental of the first order for any urban planting, including lawns, courtyards and planters.

On the practical side, it produces showy fruit, deep red and purple with a frosty bloom, and up to 3 inches long. The fruit is not only attractive but is good eaten fresh or made into jelly or jam. But if you don't get to it quickly, birds and small mammals will. And also unlike other North American plums, it doesn't sucker, meaning there will be no unrestrained thickets spreading across the lawn. And also unlike other plums, Mexican plum requires little if any spraying. And it’s not picky about soil either, able to adapt to both alkaline or acid, as long as it's well drained. The tree also can tolerate different exposures. It naturally grows as an understory tree so partial sun is no problem and it would be especially beautiful to have several arrayed along a woodland verge. However, if fruit production is the priority then bring it out into full light, but clear of paved surfaces which could be strewn with fallen fruit. And Mexican plum only grows to  25 feet and about as wide, making it easily accessible to modern gardens.

This tree grows in northern Mexico and across the southern half of the United States and along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts almost to Canada. It would do well in both the UK and New Zealand and is especially suited to Australia. It will not, however, be easy to find and has never been carried by the big discount nurseries. But it may be found in the more select, connoisseur nurseries or from mail-order sources.

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Mexican plum

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