Sunday, March 23, 2008

Myrobalan Plum, Prunus cerassifera nigra

I am an amateur naturalist trying to learn something about everything living in my garden.

In my previous posting I talked about the appearance of daffodils here in Oxford heralding the arrival of Spring (though I might add that when I wrote the posting, the weather was warm and sunny, whilst today we're experiencing strong Arctic winds and snow - there is nothing so changeable as the British weather!).

Another pretty indication of Spring's arrival is the masses of blossom breaking out on the trees and hedgerows. One common example, found everywhere in parks and gardens here in the UK, is the blossoming of ornamental 'Myrobalan' Cherry-plum trees. I have one in my garden (at (0,1.1) - see here) - photo 1 (click on photo's to enlarge)

The botanical name for my tree is Prunus cerasifera, and on the basis that the blossom is pink (photo 2) and the leaves purple-red (see photo 3 taken late last summer), it is an example of the subspecies P. cerasifera nigra. (Were the blossom to be white, it would more likely be an example of the second common cultivar: P. cerasifera Pissardii).

Together with showing the toothed leaf margin (another feature aiding identification) photo 4 shows a closeup of one of my tree's 'fruits' (or, to give them their correct botanical name, drupes - see my previous explanation here). I've no idea what, if any, culinary use it's possible to make of these. Can anyone comment?

Though I intend to make an effort to observe more carefully this year, I also don't know what animals, if any, like to eat the drupes. I guess blackbirds, squirrels and pigeons, at least, might give them a try.

For completeness, photo to 5 shows a closeup my tree's bark, and photo 6 a view of the buds in late January, a few weeks before they blossomed.
And that would appear to be that! Those who follow my postings will know that I normally make some effort to link to websites providing interesting snippets of information on the 'lifeform' under discussion. When it comes to Myrobalan cherry-plums however I've drawn something of a blank! There is a fair amount of scientific literature out there devoted to trying to sort out the genetic relationships between all the various plums, cherries, peaches, apricots and almonds that constitute the Prunus genus. Specifically on the Myrobalan's however, I've found next to nothing of say which the amateur naturalist like myself might find interesting (any suggestions anyone?)

I'll therefore end with my own observation: returning to the closeup of the blossom in photo 2 it's apparent the flowers have 5 petals (5 fold symmetry). Recently I watched a streaming lecture on the physics of crystals on the superb M.I.T., open course-ware, website (as you do!). The lecturer, one Prof. Wuensch, explained that star-fish have evolved five legs since objects with a 5-fold symmetry lack an 'easy' or 'weak' direction along which to tear or rip them (if startfish had, say, 4 legs they'd present a weak axis along which a fish could easily tear them into two, symmetric, 2 legged sections). I will end my posting therefore with The Walloon Myrobalan Blossom Conjecture:

Fruit-tree blossom commonly has 5-petals to make it more difficult for birds (such as Bullfinches) to dismember it.



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AGnes said...

Excellent photos, I love flowers

Anonymous said...

Myrobolan: prunus cerasifera Pissardii nigra
Glad to find your article and now I have finally identified it. The horticulturalists regard it as only ornamental, the botanists as wild and therefore you don't get a full accurate description of the fruit.
We 'discovered' one growing at the bottom of our garden last year, provenance unknown, probably self- seeded. Beautiful early pink flowers(feb/mar) then pretty delicate brownish red leaves and this year followed by a huge crop of good sized oval muddy-orange-red fruit. What to do with them? Jam of course. I have already made 4 batches ie 32 lbs which is why I was looking for identification on the net - rather a long name to put on a jam label! Delicious dark pink jam with a bite and there's more to be made!
Near us we have hedgerows of red and yellow cherry plums (prunus cerasifera) and I sometimes make jam with them but this one is superior and much more beautiful.
The other 3 comments on this site are useless - you should scrub them - before you start on the jam-making. I live in West Wiltshire.

Extenze Side Effects said...

I intend to make an effort to observe more carefully this year, I also don't know what animals, if any, like to eat the drupes.