Manchurian Plum: non-native seedling

(Prunus salicina var. mandshurica)


Dormant Manchurian plum
Dormant Manchurian plum

Manchurian plum is native to Eastern Asia. It is said to be hardy and vigorous. According to the description in the St. Lawrence Nurseries catalog, “It will fruit heavily even in the coldest locations. Juicy and sweet, with red-yellow skin and yellow flesh. Eat them fresh (sweetest right after they’ve fallen from the tree) or use in jam or plum sauce. Ripening time varies with seedlings: some as early as late July, others as late as the first week of October.” This plum requires cross-pollination. The description is similar to the observed characteristics of the Native American plum (Prunus americana).

Observations at Carandale Farm

One plant was ordered from St. Lawrence Nurseries in 2008. It replaced a pipestone plum that had died (probably from girdling by bacterial canker). The Manchruian plum got established and survived despite less than favorable conditions, including competition from Canadian thistle and field bindweed, as well as the possible effect of replant disorder. It has not shown the vigor mentioned in the description, but the fact that it survived under these circumstances is a testament to its hardiness.

The photos show it does not have a typical tree form. With only one specimen to observe, it is not possible to determine if this is typical of the species or a result of its growth environment. The very long thorns that can be seen on the older branches are probably typical. New growth from the previous year has no thorns, and it is obvious from the dormant photo taken in early March 2012 that it had a growth surge in the 2011 growing season.

This growth surge continued in 2012 despite drought conditions, indicating good drought tolerance. The Manchurian plum bloomed for the first time in 2012. The photo showing early bloom was taken in late March when most other plums were in full bloom. There was no fruit set, most likely due to the general freeze losses that affected a majority of the cultivars.

Seedling plums are genetically different from each other, so every plant will have slightly different characteristics. Accordingly, all observations about tree form and size, bloom times, ripening times, fruit quality and other characteristics will have to be generalized and broadly interpreted. Fruiting characteristics have yet to be observed.

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