A Star of Spring

Right now, the uncultivated star of spring that unfolds here on the Northern Plains is the plum. After a few warm days and promise of more, deciduous trees nearby are beginning to leaf out.

The plum’s blossoms glow white early and late in the quiet of the day. Like many of us needing haircuts with the stay-in-place virus recommendation, a pruner hasn’t touched the plum’s branches. It has received no maintenance. A bird enjoying its fruit likely planted it here at the edge of a meadow.

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Not to say that at least trimming its lower dead branches would take away from its abundance- of-blossoms appearance. For an active gardener, it’s a beautiful plant to enjoy that can fully grow and mature without gardener input in early spring.


This American plum (Prunus Americana Marsh.) or wild plum is a small tree, growing to about 15 ft. in height. It is hardy to USDA Zone 3 and is native to eastern and central United States and throughout the Northern Plains, according to Trees field guide by John Ball.  Pointed leaves with deep serrations distinguish it from others. Birds enjoy the summer fruit. It often grows in thickets or colonies of root suckers, but this one is the last remaining in the thicket that also protects wildlife. Turkeys are extra. Its early spring flowers provide pollen for pollinators.


In Giants in the Earth, the character chose a wild plum found by the Big Sioux River to plant in his homestead.

Plums were among the woody plants that stood out in the grasslands to the Lewis & Clark Expedition as they explored the upper reaches of the Missouri River in 1804-1806.

In historic Native American Indian tribes such as Pawnee, Ponca, and Omaha, which lived along this Western edge of the tallgrass prairie, wild plums in bloom marked the new season. Wild plums flowering is the time to plant crops. They passed down to us. So we try to do it.

Spring is a busy, enjoyable time here. We hope it is for you too. Do share about your favorite sign of spring or note the topics you may choose for articles about vegetables or other.

Thanks for visiting Plant Exchange Blog! See you next week!




One thought on “A Star of Spring

  1. This is naturalized in some regions here, but is not invasive. It was introduced as understock for orchard trees of the Santa Clara Valley a long time ago. The originals were likely cultivars that were selected as understock. I really do not know how the feral sorts now compare to what grows wild in the East. The fruit works well for the same recipes. I also got beach plum from Long Island in New York, so it will be interesting to see how it produces here.

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