A plum whole and split
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Subfamily: Maloideae or Spiraeoideae [1]
Genus: Prunus
Subgenus: Prunus

See text.

A plum or gage is a stone fruit tree in the genus Prunus, subgenus Prunus. The subgenus is distinguished from other subgenera (peaches, cherries, bird cherries, etc.) in the shoots having a terminal bud and solitary side buds (not clustered), the flowers in groups of one to five together on short stems, and the fruit having a groove running down one side and a smooth stone (or pit).

Mature plum fruit may have a dusty-white coating that gives them a glaucous appearance; this is easily rubbed off. This is an epicuticular wax coating and is known as "wax bloom". Dried plum fruits are called dried plums or prunes, although prunes are a distinct type of plum, and may have antedated the fruits now commonly known as plums.[citation needed]



Prunus cultivar (mature fruits with natural wax bloom)

The subgenus is divided into three sections:

  • Sect. Prunus (Old World plums)- leaves in bud rolled inwards; flowers 1-3 together; fruit smooth, often wax-bloomed
  • Sect. Prunocerasus (New World plums) - leaves in bud folded inwards; flowers 3-5 together; fruit smooth, often wax-bloomed
  • Sect. Armeniaca (apricots) - leaves in bud rolled inwards; flowers very short-stalked; fruit velvety; treated as a distinct subgenus by some authors

Cultivation and uses

Cultivar Regina Claudia yellow
Plums (without pit) Prunus spp.
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 192 kJ (46 kcal)
Carbohydrates 11.4 g
- Sugars 9.9 g
- Dietary fibre 1.4 g
Fat 0.28 g
Protein 0.70 g
Vitamin A 345 IU
Vitamin C 9.5 mg (11%)
Phosphorus 16 mg (2%)
Potassium 157 mg (3%)
1 fruit (2-1/8" dia) 66 g
1 cup, sliced 165 g
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Plums, dried (prunes), uncooked
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 1,006 kJ (240 kcal)
Carbohydrates 63.88 g
- Sugars 38.13 g
- Dietary fibre 7.1 g
Fat 0.38 g
Protein 2.18 g
Vitamin A 781 IU
Vitamin C 0.6 mg (1%)
Phosphorus 69 mg (10%)
Potassium 732 mg (16%)
1 prune, pitted 9.5 g
1 cup, pitted 174 g
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Plum fruit tastes sweet and/or tart; the skin may be particularly tart. It is juicy and can be eaten fresh or used in jam-making or other recipes. Plum juice can be fermented into plum wine; when distilled, this produces a brandy known in Eastern Europe as Slivovitz, Rakia, Ţuică or Pálinka. In central England, a cider-like alcoholic beverage known as plum jerkum is made from plums.

Dried plums (or prunes) are also sweet and juicy and contain several antioxidants. Plums and prunes are known for their laxative effect. This effect has been attributed to various compounds present in the fruits, such as dietary fiber, sorbitol,[2] and isatin.[3] Prunes and prune juice are often used to help regulate the functioning of the digestive system. Dried prune marketers in the United States have, in recent years, begun marketing their product as "dried plums". This is due to "prune" having negative connotations connected with elderly people suffering from constipation.[4]

Dried, salted plums are used as a snack, sometimes known as saladito or salao. Various flavors of dried plum are available at Chinese grocers and specialty stores worldwide. They tend to be much drier than the standard prune. Cream, ginsing, spicy, and salty are among the common varieties. Licorice is generally used to intensify the flavor of these plums and is used to make salty plum drinks and toppings for shaved ice or baobing.

Pickled plums are another type of preserve available in Asia and international specialty stores. The Japanese variety, called umeboshi, is often used for rice balls, called onigiri or omusubi. The ume, from which umeboshi are made, is more closely related, however, to the apricot than to the plum.

As with many other members of the rose family, plum seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, including amygdalin.[5] These substances are capable of decomposing into a sugar molecule and hydrogen cyanide gas. While plum seeds are not the most toxic within the rose family (the bitter almond is the most toxic[citation needed]), large doses of these chemicals from any source are hazardous to human health.

Prune kernel oil is made from the fleshy inner part of the pit of the plum.

Plums come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. Some are much firmer-fleshed than others, and some have yellow, white, green or red flesh, with equally varying skin color.

Plum cultivars in use today include:

  • Damson or Damask plum
  • Greengage (firm, green flesh and skin even when ripe)
  • Mirabelle (dark yellow, predominantly grown in northeast France)
  • Satsuma plum (firm red flesh with a red skin)
  • Victoria (yellow flesh with a red or mottled skin)
  • Yellowgage or golden plum (similar to greengage, but yellow)

When it flowers in the early spring, a plum tree will be covered in blossoms, and in a good year approximately 50% of the flowers will be pollinated and become plums. Flowering starts after 80 growing degree days.

If the weather is too dry, the plums will not develop past a certain stage, but will fall from the tree while still tiny, green buds, and if it is unseasonably wet or if the plums are not harvested as soon as they are ripe, the fruit may develop a fungal condition called brown rot. Brown rot is not toxic, and very small affected areas can be cut out of the fruit, but unless the rot is caught immediately, the fruit will no longer be edible. Plum is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera, including November moth, willow beauty and short-cloaked moth.

The Serbian plum (Serbian: шљива / šljiva) is the third most produced in the world and the alcoholic drink slivovitz (plum brandy) (Serbian: шљивовица / šljivovica) is the national drink of Serbia. The plum production averages 424,300 tons per year; FAO 1991–2001.[citation needed]

A large number of plums, of the Damson variety, are also grown in Hungary, where they are called szilva and are used to make lekvar (a plum paste jam), palinka (a slivovitz-type liquor), plum dumplings, and other foods. The region of Szabolcs-Szatmár, in the northeastern part of the country near the borders with Ukraine and Romania, is a major producer of plums.

The plum blossom or meihua (Chinese: 梅花; pinyin: méihuā), along with the peony, are considered traditional floral emblems of China.

The plum is commonly used in China, Yunnan area, to produce a local plum wine with a smooth, sweet, fruity taste and approximately 12% alcohol by volume.[citation needed]


The fruit Prunus armeniaca gained its name from the beliefs of Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian and scientist of the first century, who maintained the apricot was a kind of a plum, and had originally come from Armenia.[6] Armenian sources support their claims by referring to a 6,000-year-old apricot pit found in an archaeological site near Yerevan.[6] Other historians point to Mesopotamia as a clue to the Latin name. Apricots were cultivated in Mesopotamia, and it was known as armanu in the Akkadian language, but this did not refer to Armenia as that is not the name by which that geographic region was known in the Akkadian language. It is likely that Pliny's explanation is a folk etymology based on the similarity between the Mesopotamian name for the fruit and the Latin name for Armenia.[citation needed]


Plum and sloe output in 2005
Top ten plum producers in 2009
Country Production (tons) Note
 China 5,373,001 [E]
 Serbia 662,631
 USA 561,366
 Romania 533,691
 Turkey 245,782
 Spain 200,100
 Italy 194,100
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 155,767
 France 150,000 [E]
 Ukraine 136,700
 World 10,679,206 [A]
No symbol = official figure, E = FAO Estimate, A = may include official, semi-official or estimates.FAOSTAT

See also


  1. ^ Potter, D.; Eriksson, T.; Evans, R.C.; Oh, S.H.; Smedmark, J.E.E.; Morgan, D.R.; Kerr, M.; Robertson, K.R.; Arsenault, M.P.; Dickinson, T.A.; Campbell, C.S. (2007). Phylogeny and classification of Rosaceae. Plant Systematics and Evolution. 266(1–2): 5–43.
  2. ^ M. Roach, The power of prunes (1999)
  3. ^ FoodTV article on plums
  4. ^ Jason Zasky. "Turning Over a New Leaf Change from 'Prune' to 'Dried Plum' Proving Fruitful". Archived from the original on 2007-10-14. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  5. ^ Poisons of the Rose family
  6. ^ a b Armenian Food: Fact, Fiction & Folklore By Irina Petrosian, David Underwood

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