Prunus spinosa

16 Mar

Prunus spinosa flower (13/03/2011, London)

Prunus spinosa flower (13/03/2011, London)

Position: Full sun

Soil: Moist but well drained

Flowering period: Early spring

Eventual Height: 5m

Eventual Spread: 4m

Hardiness: 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b

Family: Rosaceae

Prunus spinosa is a deciduous shrub with a dense bushy habit, which will develop a more tree like shape as it matures. It has elliptic to obovate, mid to dark green leaves. It bares solitary or rarely, paired, bowl shaped white flowers on bare branches before the foliage. These are followed by edible, spherical, glaucous black fruit.

Prunus spinosa (13/03/2011, London)

Prunus spinosa (13/03/2011, London)

Prunus spinosa, commonly known as Blackthorn or Sloe in Britain, is native to Europe, including the UK, and western Asia. In the UK it has historically had many uses from a good firewood that burns with a good heat and little smoke to the traditional wood used to make a shillelagh. The fruit is traditionally used to make jam or sloe gin. The fruit should be picked soon after a hard frost, as the plant will temporarily remove the bitter tannins in response to cold.

The etymological root of the binomial name for Prunus is the classical Latin name of the plum tree. Spinosa is derived from the Latin spinosum ‘thorny’

For the landscape architect Prunus spinosa can be useful as part of a native hedge mix (which can also be laid) and can form part of an effective barrier, with the benefit of prolific flowers in spring and fruit in autumn. This plant also can form part of a native woodland mix, eventually being shaded out by larger trees as the woodland develops and being confined to its edges. Care must be taken in its location due to its thorny branches.

Prunus spinosa fruit (02/01/2012, Vsetin, Czech Republic)

Prunus spinosa fruit (02/01/2012, Vsetin, Czech Republic)

Ecologically Prunus spinosa is valuable as it attracts birds to the berries, provides refuge for small birds and mammals, moth and butterfly caterpillars feed on it and it is an excellent source of nectar. The foliage is eaten by the larvae of many Lepidoptera.

Prunus spinosa prefers well drained fertile soils. It will tolerate most pH of soil.

Prunus spinosa requires little maintenance. Prune in mid-summer if the fungal disease silver leaf is a problem. When part of a native hedge mix it should be clipped or laid in winter when disturbance to wildlife be at a minimum.

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