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What Is a Cherry Plum?

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  • Written By: Angie Bates
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 31 July 2014
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The cherry plum is a type of tree originating in Asia. A small tree with showy flowers, colorful leaves, and edible fruit, cherry plums are used primarily for ornamental purposes. The scientific, or botanical, name for the cherry plum is Prunus cerasifera.

Generally small, the cherry plum usually reaches heights of 15 to 28 feet (4.6–8.5 m) tall. Their spread is roughly symmetrical, and it may be between 15 and 20 feet (4.6–6.1 m) wide. The dark gray to reddish-brown bark is smooth in the tree's youth, then becomes furrowed as it ages.

Although cherry plums are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves each winter, their leaves do not change color with the seasons. Most cherry plum trees have dark, purple-red leaves, but some are a dark green. Oval-shaped, the leaves are between 1.5 and 2.5 inches (3.81–5.1 cm) long. They alternate on the stems.

Beautiful pale pink flowers blossom in the early spring. About 1 inch (2.54 cm) across, these flowers may be light enough to be called white. Flowers do not occur in clusters, but they are spaced so closely together and are so numerous that they may appear to be clustered at a distance. In addition to being beautiful visually, these blossoms are also strongly fragrant.

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In late summer, reddish fruit appears. This fruit is edible and is frequently eaten by birds. Like most plums, cherry plum fruit has a fleshy exterior and a hard, non-edible, interior pit. These types of fruits are called stone fruits or drupes.

Cherry plums like full sun and acidic or alkaline soil. They should always be pruned after flowering is completed. Drought tolerant, these trees are often planted for ornamental purposes.

Sometimes used for shade, cherry plums are most often used as specimen trees. A specimen tree is a type of tree planted in order to exemplify its beautiful features for the pleasure of observers. Often found with few or no other plants and trees nearby in landscaping, the striking nature of the cherry plum shines without the addition of other showy plants.

Though they are drought tolerant, cherry plum trees are very susceptible to many pests and diseases such as aphids and leafspot. Once infected, the disease or pest is usually very difficult to eliminate and will affect both the health and the appearance of the tree. Additionally, the cherry plum is relatively short lived, lasting only about 20 years. After 10 years, the tree may begin to decline.

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