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How to Identify Different Plum Trees

Plum trees are hearty trees that provide lots of fruit. Plums are versatile and can be preserved through canning, freezing and drying. Jellies and jams also can be made from plums. Certain plum varieties are good eaten fresh, and others are best suited to recipes and preservation. A plum tree requires well-drained soil and is best situated on sloping land, as opposed to a low-lying areas. Fruits vary in colour and can be black, purple, yellow, red, orange or hues of blue. There are three different groups of plum: European, Damson and Japanese. Each type is easily identified by its fruit and leaves.

Purchase a guide to fruit trees. Being able to bring a book with you to identify the plum tree will help immensely. Use the maps inside the guide to distinguish which trees grow well in your geographic area. Knowing what types of plum tree are common in your area will help you eliminate some of the possibilities.

Take pictures of the plum tree in question. If you have difficulty finding your plum tree in your guide, you might have a hybrid or other type of plum tree. Use the Internet to search for your plum tree (nurseries that sell fruit trees will have pictures of many types of plum trees) and help you identify it.

Ascertain the size of the tree and, if flowering, how many flowers in a bunch at a time. A mature tree that is between 8 and 14 feet tall is considered dwarf. A mature tree between 15 and 25 feet is considered standard. Old World, or European plum trees, typically have bunches of one to three flowers that range in colour from white to light pink, whereas Japanese plums have groups of three to five white or light pink flowers.

Examine the leaves of the plum tree. All plum tree leaves are oblong or elliptic in shape with a pointed tip and serrated edge. However, European varieties are generally thinner than Japanese varieties. All plum leaves are generally 2 to 4 inches in length. Many hybrid varieties have red or purple leaves.

Things You'll Need

  • Camera
  • Pictures of already identified plum trees
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About the Author

Michelle Hogan is a writer and the author of 13 books including the 2005 bestselling memoir, "Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America." Hogan studied English at American University and has been writing professionally since 1998. Her work has appeared in "The New York Times," "Redbook," "Family Circle" and many other publications.