Mystery Plants
June 23, 2009 6:59 PM   Subscribe

Can you identify these two plants?

These two plants are on my neighbour's property. Neither she nor I know what they are. The green fruit in the first picture is about the size of cherries.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium to Science & Nature (14 answers total)
The first picture looks like prune plums. They'll turn deep purple when ripe (and be quite tasty).
posted by ssg at 7:06 PM on June 23, 2009

I don't know about the second, but the first looks like delicious plums!
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:07 PM on June 23, 2009

Best answer: #2 is bergenia, with juniper in the foreground.
posted by agropyron at 7:08 PM on June 23, 2009

Best answer: The second one is bergenia, probably cordifolia, also known as pigsqueak. And a very beautiful stand of it, too.

Is there some reason to believe the first plant isn't a cherry?
posted by miss patrish at 7:08 PM on June 23, 2009

Cherries, peaches, and prunes are all in the genus Prunus. Wikipedia says you can tell a cherry from a prune because the prune will have a groove running down one side... although I remember seeing grooves on cherries. Maybe it's more pronounced on a plum. Also, the shoots have a terminal bud and the side buds are solitary (not clustered).
posted by agropyron at 7:18 PM on June 23, 2009

Response by poster: The fruit looks too small to be plums, and it doesn't have the groove. My cherries (Bings and Lamberts) are red now. I'm eating them already. These little fruits are still hard and green--not even a blush of red. You nailed the second one, miss patrish, thanks.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:25 PM on June 23, 2009

Response by poster: And agropyron, by a nose.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:27 PM on June 23, 2009

Pretty sure those are plums. They don't have a groove when they are young, and there are plums, especially volunteer plums, that are hardly larger than a cherry. At any rate, big ripe plums still grow from little green ones.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:44 PM on June 23, 2009

Response by poster: But note the length of the stem, oneirodynia. Plums grow on short stems. These hang on the tree like cherries.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:56 PM on June 23, 2009

FWIW, my grandmother had a prune plum tree in her backyard in the Okanagan and they looked just like the ones in your picture. They are indeed quite small, especially compared to plums you buy in the grocery store, and don't ripen until later in the summer. Here is a blog post with a photo that looks very similar to yours and here is a photo of the fruit when it is closer to ripe.
posted by ssg at 7:57 PM on June 23, 2009

... and I have no idea what that wiki article that agropyron is talking about re: "solitary side buds". Plums tend to fruit on spurs, which are stubby little lateral branches with many buds. Scroll down on the wiki page and you can see them on one of the bloom photos. Or you can look here at different types of fruiting prunus buds.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:17 PM on June 23, 2009

Stem length depends on the type of plum. Damson plums have longer stems, and they don't have a groove, either.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:29 PM on June 23, 2009

It's possible they're wild plums (prunus americana). Apparently those are hardy to zone 3. My parents have had a little wild plum in their front yard for decades; it's all gnarled up and probably on its last legs, but still produces tiny little sour-but-flavorful plums that are superb for jelly, jam, preserves or pie.
posted by miss patrish at 8:36 PM on June 23, 2009

I'm sorry- I totally checked the link for "here" in preview... or I thought I did anyway.

Here are budded twigs of different types of fruiting prunus.
You can see that though cherries have buds in whorls, plums have spurs. Helpful for ID of bare branches especially, but you should be able to see these structures on flowering plants. Be aware that prunus has been known to naturally hybridize, so ultimately the best way to id things in the field is to see the ripe fruit, and look at flower parts.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:01 PM on June 24, 2009

« Older I'll be looking at the moon...   |   A "top" school district-- how important? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.