Thursday, 25 February 2016

THE NATURE TABLE ~ IDENTIFYING EARLY BLOSSOM

(left to right) myrobalan plum, Pissard's plum & myrobalan plum. 

I've been seeing loads pretty blossom growing in the hedgerows near me which I used to think was blackthorn, however it's not, it is actually a lesser known tree called cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera).

You can see from the picture above that there aren't any thorns on the twigs which are synoymous with the blackthorn. Wild cherry plums are found throughout England and grow as straggly, thornless hedgerow shrubs or graceful standard trees, Pissard's plum above was brought from Persia for suburban gardens in the 1800's. Like many fruit trees cherry plum trees are favourites with birds such as titmice (blue tits, coal tits & great tits) who shred the winter buds looking for hibernating aphids, and bullfinches who have no time for such pickiness and eat the whole buds, aphids and all.

My colleague at work Ellen Winter says "If you are very lucky you will find a cherry plum tree in fruit around August. Wild crops tend to be meagre, with occasional unexpected gorgeous ruby bounty. Looking exactly as named – like a cross between a cherry and a small plum – the fruit has a sweet sharp taste and are loved by birds, who might be one reason humans see the ripe fruit so rarely."

Years ago our ancestors would have been familiar with the subtle differences between wild plum, cherry plum, blackthorn, hawthorn and others, we have largely lost all of this intimate knowledge of our native wild habitat and I'm really enjoying learning to identify more and more through our nature table project. 

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