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What is an Indian Plum?

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  • Written By: Lisa O'Meara
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2016
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An Indian Plum is a flowering shrub in the Rosacea family which thrives along the Pacific coast of the United States and in British Columbia. One of the earliest bloomers in spring, Indian Plum will also bear fruit when properly fertilized. Also known as Osoberry, Oregon Plum or Skunkbush, Indian Plum bushes can be trained to grow into trees.

Found exclusively on the Pacific coast of North America, Indian Plum varieties appear as far north as British Columbia and south through Washington, Oregon and Northern California. It prefers a temperate climate and open spaces near roads, woods or streams. Indian Plum needs moist, fertile soil and grows best if planted in full sun or partial shade. Although it can handle dry climates in the summer, Indian Plum needs winter rain in order to survive.

These deciduous plants can reach heights of 6-20 feet (2-6 m) and grow up to 12 feet (4 m) wide. Their leaves are grayish green and fuzzy and are complemented by whitish green flowers that blossom in late winter or early spring. As one of the first plants to bloom each year, the Indian Plum is popular with bees and insects seeking nectar. The sword shaped leaves of the Indian Plum are approximately 2-5 inches (5-13 cm) long and are said to release a strong smell of cucumber when crushed. Shoots can be replanted and should thrive on their own if placed in rich soil and properly tended.

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Female Indian Plum bushes will bear fruit if planted in proximity to a male bush. Their oval shaped berries are small, measuring up to 1/2 inch (1.3cm) long, and first appear in orange or yellow shades on a red stem. The mature berries are bluish black and are a favorite of birds. Much like other pitted fruit, Indian Plum berries have a tough outer skin and a juicy inner layer surrounding a seed. Those seeds can be collected and cultivated into new bushes.

Native Americans made good us of almost the entire Indian Plum plant. Besides eating the fruit, American Indians made tea with the bark and drank it in order to cleanse the body and treat a variety of ailments. Twigs of the Indian Plum were thought to contain anesthetic powers and were chewed before applying to injuries. Some Native Americans also believed the Indian Plum twigs worked as an aphrodisiac although no evidence exists to support that claim.

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ddljohn
Post 3

@bear78-- I don't thin they're the same. I looked up both and they clearly look different. Indian Plum looks more oval and it's a very dark purple/red when ripe. The Indian plum of India is a yellow plum that's dark orange when ripe and slightly more round. I think this latter plum is closely related to Chinese jujube fruit although jujube is not a plum.

The Indian Plum the article is talking about is native to Americas and were eaten by Native Americans. So you are right. I suppose it should be called "Native American Plum." That would be more accurate.

bear78
Post 2

Is this plum same as the Indian plum of Southeast Asia? I know that sometimes people call Native Americans "Indians." I'm not sure if that's the case here or if it's the same type of plum. Does anyone know?

turquoise
Post 1

I'm not a berry or plum expert by any means. I just love nature and I love wild berries and fruits. So if there are any in my area, I take walks and try to discover them (and eat them!). The only place I've seen Indian Plums was in British Columbia, Canada, when I was visiting my friend there. They were quite delicious when ripe. I wanted to eat more but it was still beginning of the season, so tasted just a few before I had to leave.

I wonder where in the US Indian Plums can be found. I would love to try them again. I plums and berries from the store and farmer's markets too, but nothing beats wild plums and berries in flavor.

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