Saturday, August 11, 2018
O.K.I. Wild Plum Conservation Project
(Wild Plums in the O.K.I. region can be 1 of 6 different native species referred to as "Wild Plums")
Throughout the United States there are small trees, often colonial, that bloom white in the spring, and give way to plum flavored fruit in late summer as small as a bit bigger than a dime or almost as large as a half dollar. These are referred to as Wild Plums, in the Prunus genus. The Prunus genus has given birth to many of our cultivated (bred for food) fruits like Apricots, Peaches, Cherries, Plums, Almonds, and Nectarines. Wild Plums refers to uncultivated (unbred, wild) that are native to the United States and within Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana these are Prunus americana - American Wild Plum, Prunus hortulana - Hortulan Plum, Prunus munsoniana - Wild Goose Plum, Prunus mexicana - Big Tree Plum, Prunus nigra - Canada Plum, and Prunus angustifolia - Chickasaw Plum. I should note that Canada Plum is only native to Northern Ohio and Northern Indiana when considering these 3 states (OKI). Follow this link for the current understanding of the ranges for these species, amongst other Prunus species in the U.S.
Wild Plums were widely cultivated by indigenous people, especially east of the Mississippi River where most of the Wild Plums are understood as native to. Some colonizer journals noted extensive Wild Plum, American Hazelnut (Corylus americana), Wild Crab Apple (Malus coronaria) thickets promoted and managed by indigenous people for food, so thick horses couldn't navigate through them. These fruit and nut bearing thickets would have required full-sun to be productive, so one can imagine these plantings within deep soil grasslands/prairies or previously forested land. Whether on flat land or hillsides these perennial crops would have produced well.
Before colonization, industrial agriculture, and the introduction of invasive plants from other continents, Wild Plums would have naturally grown in prairies, shrub/scrubland thickets, wetlands, and open savannas. They're an open habitat dependent species that cannot persist even in young forests due to shade intolerance.
Lastly, see this flickr album of the populations of Wild Plum we've located and conserved so far though seed collection, and soon through invasive plant removal. We've collected and labled seed for genetic diversity regardless of fruit quality/size, and we've also collected and labled seed based on fruit quality/size for indigenous agriculture. Click the photo below to view album.