Table of Contents for Allegheny Plum (Prunus alleghaniensis)
Allegheny Plum (Prunus alleghaniensis) is a shrub to small tree that is native in the eastern United States and Michigan. This plant is a host to four butterflies and many moths, including the Luna Moth and is an important nectar source for other insects. Growing from 3 to 12 feet tall, this species grows in floodplains, meadows, and other open areas. The white flowers age to pink and bloom from April to May and the plant is hardy in zones 4-8.
Taxonomy and Naming of Allegheny Plum (Prunus alleghaniensis)
Allegheny Plum (Prunus alleghaniensis) was named and described by Thomas Porter, an American botanist, in 1877. It still has the same name and is a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae).
- P. alleghaniensis var. alleghaniensis: Eastern United States from Massachusetts to North Carolina
- P. alleghaniensis var. davisii: Found only in Michigan
Meaning of the Scientific and Common Names
The genus name, Prunus, is Latin for “plum tree.” The species name, alleghaniensis, is a Latinized version of the region where this is found in the Allegheny Mountains.
Common Name and Alternative Names
The common name comes from Appalachain region where it is found. Another common name is the Alleghany Plum, Sloe Plum (Michigan State University (PDF)), and the Allehany Sloe (Rogers 1922).
- Plant Type: This plant is a shrub to small tree.
- Height: 3 to 12 (20) feet tall
- Stem: The branches are thorny.
- Leaves: The leaves are alternate, petiolate, lanceolate to oval-lanceolate (var. alleghaniensis) or ovate to oval (var.davisii) (Wight 1915), have serrate margins and are 1 to 3.5 inches in length and 1 to 1.5 inches in width.
- Flower color: white aging to pink
- Blooming period: This plant blooms from April to May.
- Fruiting type and period: This plant has purple drupes that mature from August to September.
Range of Allegheny Plum in the United States and Canada
This species is native in the eastern United States from Massachusetts to North Carolina. Variety davisii is native to the state of Michigan. This species is also historic to the state of Connecticut (Graves 1901). Both varieties are considered to be rare in all states where it is found except for New York and Massachusetts.
This species grows in open areas such as fields, roadsides, meadows, and limestone bluffs and barrens (Wight 1915).
The Prunus genus is general is a host to four butterflies including the henry’s elfin (Callophrys henrici), Coral hairstreak (Satyrium titus), the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), and the Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) (Gaden, et al 2023). This genus also hosts many moths and one of the notable ones is the Luna Moth (Actias luna).
Other Supported Wildlife
This species is an important nectar source to other butterflies, skippers, bees, and wasps. Birds and small mammals enjoy the fruits in the summer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does this plant have any ethnobotanical uses?
The Native American Ethobotanical Database does not list this species specifically but cherries have been used for wood, foods, and pharmaceuticals. The fruits have been used for preserves and jellies (Sargent 1892).
How is this plant distinguished from other Cherries (Prunus spp.)?
This species is similar to the American Plum (Prunus americana) but American Plum has abruptly accuminate leaf blades, while this species has gradual accuminate leaf tips (Seymour 1973). This species is also similar to the flatwoods plum (Prunus umbellata) but is differentiated by the accuminate leaf tip versus the acute leaf tip of the flatwoods plum (Weakley, et al 2022).
Is this plant invasive?
This plant has not been noted as being invasive in the literature and is rare in most of its range.
Gardening with Allegheny Plum
This species is hardy in zones 4-8. If your garden is within these zones and you have the right growing conditions (soil, moisture and exposure), you may well be able to grow this plant. However, if planted outside of its range, the hosted species may not recognize the plant or be harmed by ingesting a different species with an unfamiliar chemical composition.
This species grows in full sun and prefers moist well-drained soil, but can handle medium soil conditions.
- Gaden S. Robinson; Phillip R. Ackery; Ian Kitching; George W Beccaloni; Luis M. Hernández (2023). HOSTS (from HOSTS – a Database of the World’s Lepidopteran Hostplants) [Data set resource]. Natural History Museum. Link to Hosts Database Website.
- Graves, Charles Burr. 1901. Noteworthy Plants of Southeastern Connecticut, – II. Rhodora 3: 63-65.
- Rogers, Julia Ellen. 1922. Tree Guide: trees east of the Rockies. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday).
- Sargent, Charles Sprague. 1892. The Silva of North America: a description of the trees which grow naturally in North America exclusive of Mexico. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company).
- Seymour, Frank C. 1973. The range of Prunus americana in New England. Phytologia 26(2): 97-99.
- Weakley, A.S. and Southeastern Flora Team 2022. Flora of the southeastern United States. University of North Carolina Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden.
- Wight, W.F. 1915. Native American species of Prunus. (Washington, DC: USDA) Bulletin of the US Department of Agriculture no.179.