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Useful Temperate Plants

Prunus nigra

Aiton

Rosaceae


In the northeastern United States and adjacent Canada, Prunus nigra co-occurs with, and is sometimes confused with, Prunus americana, despite being distinct in both flower and leaf[
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
].
The taxonomic history of Prunus is long and complicated, in part due to the economic value of its fruit crops and also the ease with which some species hybridize. Here, Prunus is circumscribed in its broad sense based on the argument that when viewed on a worldwide scale, the morphologic discontinuities among the segregate genera diminish and they overlap with one another. Included here are species that have at times been placed in the genera Amygdalus, Armeniaca, Cerasus, Laurocerasus, Padus, and Persica.
At the species level, Prunus has been the object of the usual combining and splitting common among taxonomists with different philosophies and opinions. In particular, over-reliance on the indument of various vegetative and floral parts has led to the naming of numerous species and infraspecific taxa. Similarly, too much has been made of fruit colour and palatability in naming taxa of Prunus. It is very likely that, as molecular and genetic data are analyzed and, more importantly, correlated with morphological data, circumscriptions will be redrawn and the number of Prunus species will be reduced[
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
].

+ Synonyms

Prunus americana nigra (Aiton) Waugh

Common Name: Canadian Plum

No Image.

General Information

Prunus nigra is a moderately thorny, deciduous shrub or a tree with a narrow head of erect branches; it can grow 3 - 9 metres tall. The plant sometimes produces suckers[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
].
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials. It is sometimes cultivated as a fruit crop.

Known Hazards

The plant (especially the seed and young shoots) contains cyanogenic glycosides, especially amygdalin and prunasin. When injested, these compounds break down in the digestive tract to release cyanide. Used in small quantities in both traditional and conventional medicine, this exceedingly poisonous compound has been shown to stimulate respiration, improve digestion, and promote a sense of well-being[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. It is also claimed by some to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer - though this claim has been largely refuted.
In larger concentrations, however, cyanide can cause gasping, weakness, excitement, pupil dilation, spasms, convulsions, coma and respiratory failure leading to death[
293
Title
Poisonous Plants of North Carolina
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/poison.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent concise but comprehensive guide to toxic plants that grow in N. Carolina. It lists even those plants that are of very low toxicity, including several well-known food plants such as carrots and potatoes.
].
The fruits and flowers of most members of this genus generally have low or very low concentrations of this toxin, though the seeds and young shoots can contain much higher levels.
The levels of toxin can be detected by the level of bitterness:- for example sweet tasting almond seeds are a major food crop and are often eaten in quantity, whilst bitter tasting almond seeds are used as a flavouring (in marzipan for example) but are not usually eaten on their own.
In general, it can be considered safe to eat any fruit or seed from species in this genus that either have a sweet flavour or are slightly bitter. Great caution should be taken, however, if the flavour is moderately to very bitter[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Botanical References

11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
43
Title
Gray's Manual of Botany.Eighth Edition
Publication
 
Author
Fernald. M. L.
Publisher
American Book Co.; New York
Year
1950
ISBN
0442222505
Description
A bit dated but a good and concise flora of the eastern part of N. America.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

Eastern N. America - Manitoba to Nova Scotia south to Iowa, Ohio and Connecticut.

Habitat

Thickets, stream banks and woodland edges[
43
Title
Gray's Manual of Botany.Eighth Edition
Publication
 
Author
Fernald. M. L.
Publisher
American Book Co.; New York
Year
1950
ISBN
0442222505
Description
A bit dated but a good and concise flora of the eastern part of N. America.
], in alluvial soils of river valleys and on limestone hills[
82
Title
Manual of the Trees of N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Sargent. C. S.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/
Publisher
Dover Publications Inc. New York.
Year
1965
ISBN
0-486-20278-X
Description
Two volumes, a comprehensive listing of N. American trees though a bit out of date now. Good details on habitats, some details on plant uses. Not really for the casual reader. It can be downloaded from the internet.
]. Borders of deciduous woods, bottomland forests, roadside thickets; at elevations up to 800 metres[
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitDeciduous Tree
Height9.00 m
PollinatorsInsects
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Wild

Cultivation Details


Thrives in a well-drained moisture-retentive loamy soil, growing well on limestone[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Prefers some lime in the soil but is likely to become chlorotic if too much lime is present[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
]. Succeeds in sun or partial shade though it fruits better in a sunny position[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Sometimes cultivated as a fruit tree in Canada and America, and also in Siberia - where it is valued for its resistance to the harsh climate. There are some named varieties that have been selected for their edible fruit[
82
Title
Manual of the Trees of N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Sargent. C. S.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/
Publisher
Dover Publications Inc. New York.
Year
1965
ISBN
0-486-20278-X
Description
Two volumes, a comprehensive listing of N. American trees though a bit out of date now. Good details on habitats, some details on plant uses. Not really for the casual reader. It can be downloaded from the internet.
,
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
].
This species is closely related to Prunus americana and at times confused with it[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
].
Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].
Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].

Edible Uses

Fruit - raw or cooked[
82
Title
Manual of the Trees of N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Sargent. C. S.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/
Publisher
Dover Publications Inc. New York.
Year
1965
ISBN
0-486-20278-X
Description
Two volumes, a comprehensive listing of N. American trees though a bit out of date now. Good details on habitats, some details on plant uses. Not really for the casual reader. It can be downloaded from the internet.
,
159
Title
Wild Food Plants of Indiana.
Publication
 
Author
McPherson. A. and S.
Publisher
Indiana University Press
Year
1977
ISBN
0-253-28925-4
Description
A nice pocket guide to this region of America.
]. A succulent flesh[
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
]. It can be eaten out of hand, used in pies, preserves etc, or can be dried for later use[
171
Title
Economic Botany.
Publication
 
Author
Hill. A. F.
Publisher
The Maple Press
Year
1952
ISBN
-
Description
Not very comprehensive, but it is quite readable and goes into some detail about the plants it does cover.
,
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
,
226
Title
Identification Guide to the Trees of Canada
Publication
 
Author
Lauriault. J.
Publisher
Fitzhenry and Whiteside, Ontario.
Year
1989
ISBN
0889025649
Description
Very good on identification for non-experts, the book also has a lot of information on plant uses.
,
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
]. The fruit is small and not very palatable[
171
Title
Economic Botany.
Publication
 
Author
Hill. A. F.
Publisher
The Maple Press
Year
1952
ISBN
-
Description
Not very comprehensive, but it is quite readable and goes into some detail about the plants it does cover.
]. A sour flavour with a thick skin[
229
Title
The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
Publication
 
Author
Elias. T.
Publisher
Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.
Year
1980
ISBN
0442238622
Description
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
], though the flavour is improved tremendously if the fruit is harvested after being touched by a few frosts[
226
Title
Identification Guide to the Trees of Canada
Publication
 
Author
Lauriault. J.
Publisher
Fitzhenry and Whiteside, Ontario.
Year
1989
ISBN
0889025649
Description
Very good on identification for non-experts, the book also has a lot of information on plant uses.
]. The red, orange or yellowish-red, round to oval fruit is about 15 - 30mm in diameter and contains one large seed[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
,
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
].

Seed - raw or cooked. The seed contains prussic acid and there have been cases recorded of children dying after eating fruits without removing the stones[
226
Title
Identification Guide to the Trees of Canada
Publication
 
Author
Lauriault. J.
Publisher
Fitzhenry and Whiteside, Ontario.
Year
1989
ISBN
0889025649
Description
Very good on identification for non-experts, the book also has a lot of information on plant uses.
]. See the notes above on toxicity.

Medicinal

An infusion of the inner bark has been used in the treatment of colds[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].
An infusion of the bark has been used to settle the stomach when it will not retain food[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].

Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

A bad companion for potatoes, the plum tree harbours aphids that can damage the potatoes[
229
Title
The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
Publication
 
Author
Elias. T.
Publisher
Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.
Year
1980
ISBN
0442238622
Description
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
].

Other Uses

A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[
168
Title
Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Grae. I.
Publisher
MacMillan Publishing Co. New York.
Year
1974
ISBN
0-02-544950-8
Description
A very good and readable book on dyeing.
].
A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[
168
Title
Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Grae. I.
Publisher
MacMillan Publishing Co. New York.
Year
1974
ISBN
0-02-544950-8
Description
A very good and readable book on dyeing.
].

The inner bark has been used as an astringent colour fixative in dyeing with other plants[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].

The wood is close-grained, hard and moderately heavy[
82
Title
Manual of the Trees of N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Sargent. C. S.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/
Publisher
Dover Publications Inc. New York.
Year
1965
ISBN
0-486-20278-X
Description
Two volumes, a comprehensive listing of N. American trees though a bit out of date now. Good details on habitats, some details on plant uses. Not really for the casual reader. It can be downloaded from the internet.
,
229
Title
The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
Publication
 
Author
Elias. T.
Publisher
Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.
Year
1980
ISBN
0442238622
Description
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
]. It weighs 43lb per cubic foot[
235
Title
An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada
Publication
 
Author
Britton. N. L. Brown. A.
Publisher
Dover Publications. New York.
Year
1970
ISBN
0-486-22642-5
Description
Reprint of a 1913 Flora, but still a very useful book.
]. The tree is too small to be used commercially[
229
Title
The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
Publication
 
Author
Elias. T.
Publisher
Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.
Year
1980
ISBN
0442238622
Description
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
].

Propagation

Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate[
113
Title
The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
Publication
 
Author
Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W.
Publisher
Athens Ga. Varsity Press
Year
1987
ISBN
0942375009
Description
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, mid summer in a frame[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Layering in spring.

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