wild plum is one of nature's rarest and most unique fruits. It
grows at the edges of Oregon, California and Nevada's northern high
desert at altitudes between 4000 and 7000 feet. Here it tolerates
great extremes of heat, cold, alkaline soils, and drought. In its
native state, the wild plum grows on a large bush five to six feet
tall. The fruit is similar to a cherry in size and has a
distinctive tart flavor. The Indian tribes of this area gathered the ripe
fruit and dried it for winter to garnish their wild fowl and game.
In 1832, Hudson
Bay trappers on their southwest expedition from Canada to California
arrived in this area starved and weary. They killed their first
deer in many months and also discovered this delicious fruit they named
the Wild Plum. The wild plum was rediscovered in 1843 by Oregon
Trail pioneer, Captain Lassen, on his route to California. He
transplanted them in the Sacramento Valley, but due to climate and soil
differences, they would not reproduce.
is the Wild Plum
Pacific or Western plum (Prunus subcordata, Bentham) is a native species
found growing wild in a relatively limited region east of the Coast Range
from southern Oregon to central California. It occurs in greatest
abundance in Lake and
Klamath counties in Oregon and Modoc and Sierra counties in California.
While the greatest
of the native thickets in California seems to be in the general vicinity
of Mount Shasta, the plum is found in more or less abundance east and
south of the Nevada line, especially in the foothills of the Sierra
Nevadas. It has been reported as far south as Yosemite Valley.
The plum usually forms thickets of small to large
shrubby trees along streams in canyons, on hillsides, or in the open
area of pine forest. In other cases the thickets are found on
ridges which are thought to be the shore lines of prehistoric lakes.
There is a general similarity in the sites on which the plum thrives and
spread throughout the region, so much so that one can almost predict the
location of the thickets.
The largest trees are found in these thickets growing
on the deeper, sandy-loam soils in the canyons where water is ample, and
the richer bottomlands adjoining the old lake beds. The hardiness of the
species and its ability to adapt itself to adverse conditions is
typified by the scrubby little thickets found growing out of rock slides
at high elevations. An occasional thicket is found, however, where
drought or exposure has all but killed out the stand.
The region in which the plum is native has an
elevation of 1,000 to 5,000 feet, although it has been observed growing
in favorable locations in the mountains of the region at elevations as
high as 6,000 feet. At these higher elevations the plums are less
apt to bear crops and are late in ripening.
The Native Pacific Plum, A.N. Roberts, L.A. Hammers, Agricultural
Experiment Station, Oregon State College.
where the plums grow.