Prunus maritima

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Prunus maritima
File:Prunus maritima.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Subgenus: Prunus
Section: Prunocerasus
Species: P. maritima
Binomial name
Prunus maritima
Marshall 1785 not Wangenh. 1787
  • Prunus acuminata Hook.f.
  • Prunus acuminata Michx.
  • Prunus gravesii Small
  • Prunus maritima var. gravesii (Small) G.J.Anderson

Prunus maritima, the beach plum,[2] is a species of plum native to the East Coast of the United States, from Maine south to Maryland.[3][4] Although sometimes listed as extending to New Brunswick, the species is not known from collections there, and does not appear in the most authoritative works on the flora of that Canadian province.[5]

Prunus maritima is a deciduous shrub, in its natural sand dune habitat growing 1–2 m (40–80 inches) high, although it can grow larger, up to 4 m (160 inches or over 13 feet) tall, when cultivated in gardens. The leaves are alternate, elliptical, 3–7 cm (1.2–2.8 inches) long and 2–4 cm (0.8–1.6 inches) broad, with a sharply toothed margin. They are green on top and pale below, becoming showy red or orange in the autumn. The flowers are 1–1.5 cm (0.4–0.6 inches) in diameter, with five white petals and large yellow anthers. The fruit is an edible drupe 1.5–2 cm (0.6–0.8 inches) in diameter in the wild plant, red, yellow, blue, or nearly black.[6][7]

A plant with rounded leaves, of which only a single specimen has ever been found in the wild, has been described as Prunus maritima var. gravesii (Small) G.J.Anderson,[8] though its taxonomic status is questionable, and it may be better considered a cultivar Prunus maritima 'Gravesii'.[9] The original plant, found in Connecticut, died in the wild in about 2000, but it is maintained in cultivation from rooted cuttings.[8]

The plant is salt-tolerant and cold-hardy. It prefers the full sun and well-drained soil. It spreads roots by putting out suckers but in coarse soil puts down a tap root. In dunes it is often partly buried in drifting sand. It blooms in mid-May and June. The fruit ripens in August and early September.

The species is endangered in Maine, where it is in serious decline due to commercial development of its beach habitats.[6]

Cultivation and uses

The species is grown commercially for its fruit to a small extent, used to make jam.[10] It can be eaten out of hand and usually is a sweet snack although it is much smaller in size when compared to the longer cultivated Asian varieties found in the supermarket. A number of cultivars have been selected for larger and better flavored fruit, including 'Resigno', 'Eastham', 'Oceanview', 'Hancock' and 'Squibnocket'.[11]

Natali Vineyards in Goshen, New Jersey produces a wine from beach plums.[12]

Greenhook Distilleries in Brooklyn, New York produces a Beach Plum Gin Liqueur using beach plums from the region.[13]


Ripe beach plums at the North Beach area of Sandy Hook, New Jersey

The species was first described by Marshall in 1785 as Prunus maritima, the 'Sea side Plumb'.[14] A few sources cite Wangenheim as the author,[15] though Wangenheim's publication dates to 1787, two years later than Marshall's.

Plum Island, Massachusetts, and Plum Island, New York, are named after the beach plum; as are Plum Cove Beach in Lanesville, Gloucester, Massachusetts; and Beach Plum Island State Park in Sussex County, Delaware.


  1. "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved January 27, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Prunus maritima". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 14 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Germplasm Resources Information Network: Prunus maritima
  4. United States Department of Agriculture Plants Profile: Prunus maritima
  5. Hinds, Harold R., 2002, Flora of New Brunswick, 2nd ed., Fredericton, New Brunswick.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Maine Department of Conservation Natural Areas Program: Prunus maritima (pdf file)
  7. Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Center for Plant Conservation: Prunus maritima var. gravesii
  9. University of Connecticut: Prunus maritima 'Gravesii'
  10. Cornell University Department of Horticulture: Beach Plum
  11. University of Connecticut: Prunus maritima
  12. Preston, Marjorie. "To save coastal dunes, here’s a plum good idea" in Shore News Today (20 October 2010). Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  13. Greenhook Ginsmiths."Greenhook Ginsmiths". (commercial website) Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  14. Marshall, H. (1785). Arbustrum Americanum: The American Grove, Or, An Alphabetical Catalogue of Forest Trees and Shrubs, Natives of the American United States, Arranged According to the Linnaean System, p. 112. Joseph Crukshank, Philadelphia. Downloadable Google Books at [1].
  15. Grier, N. M., & Grier, C. R. (1929). A List of Plants Growing Under Cultivation in the Vicinity of Cold Spring Harbor, New York. American Midland Naturalist 11: 307–387.

Further Reading

  • Uva, Richard H (2003). "Taming the Wild Beach Plum" (PDF). Arnoldia. Ithaca: Cornell University. 62 (4).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links