Plum Varieties - Different Kinds of Plums
Some examples of the different kinds of plum varieties include the European plum (Prunus domestica), Japanese plum (Prunus salicina), damson plum (Prunus insititia), apricot plum (Prunus simonii), Italian plum (Prunus cocomilia), American plum (Prunus Americana), cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera) and sand plum (Prunus angustifolia).
Plums are fruits that belong to the genus Prunus. They are characterized by having a lot of pulp, smooth and shiny skin, and a hard stone in the center. The latter is why plums are known as a type of stone fruit. There are different varieties and types of plums. Some naturally occur in the wild, while many others are created by hybridization. The latter technique has resulted in thousands of cultivars being developed. At thedailyECO, we look at 34 different kinds of plums with photos which include the most common plum varieties.
European plum (Prunus domestica)
Not all types of plum can be easily dried. While many can, the most common type of plum used to make prunes is the European plum (Prunus domestica). These prunes can be made from various cultivars of P. domestica, the fresh fruits of which range in color from dark purple (see photo below) or red to yellow or green. The shape of these plum varieties can also vary, but are usually round or oval. The taste should be slightly sour.
Some of the European plum varieties are the following cultivars:
- Greengages (Prunus domestica supsp. italica): small, green and very spherical plums which are 2 to 5 centimeters in diameter. They have a very sweet flavor, considered one of the finest types of plum you can eat.
- Mirabelle plums (Prunus domestica subsp. syriaca): very round, yellow plums. Crops of these plum varieties are almost entirely grown in Lorraine, France. They are usually only sold in processed products such as jams or liqueurs.
- Yellow Pershore plums (Prunus domestica var. Yellow Pershore): very large egg-shaped plums with a characteristic yellow color. For this reason,. threy are also known as ‘yellow egg plums’. It is widely marketed to be transformed into various products, since the fruit has too little juice to be eaten raw and the flavor is quite acidic. Its advantage is that growth is relatively constant compared to other types of plums.
Japanese plum (Prunus salicina)
This plum is the most popular and commercialized species in Asia. As its name suggests, Asia is the place of origin, but it is cultivated in many countries around the world. It is large in size with a juicy yellow pulp. It is also known for having a relatively long shelf life compared to other plum varieties. The skin can be yellow, red or greenish, but it develops a powdery white coating known as pruina (seen in the photo below).
Generally speaking, Japanese plums are larger and more aromatic than their European cousins. Some of the cultivars of Japanese plum varieties include the following:
- Beauty: Prunus salicina var. 'Beauty'
- Burbank: Prunus salicina var. 'Burbank'
- Laroda: Prunus salicina var. 'Laroda'
- Santa Rosa: Prunus salicina var. 'Santa Rosa'
- Satsuma: Prunus salicina var. 'Satsuma'
- Shiro: Prunus salicina var. 'Shiro'
Although we may not think of them as such, chestnuts are considered a type of fruit. You can learn more with our article on the different types of chestnuts.
Damson plum (Prunus insititia)
This type of plum if often known simply as the damson, leading some to think of it as a different type of stone fruit. However, the damson is from the genus Prunus and just as much a plum as any of the other plum varieties on our list. Their name is derived from the fact they were grown in Damascus, Syria. They have been given their own species name of Prunus insititia, but are often grouped as a subspecies of Prunus domestica.
Damsons are small in size, averaging around 2.5 to 4 cm in diameter. They are dark purple, yellow, red or green, with a protuberant tip. They are usually sold already transformed into jams or other preserves. This is because the skin is highly acidic and the fruit has an overall tart flavor. They take quite a long time to grow compared to other varieties of plum. As the photo shows, they can have a lot of pruina on their skin.
Certain cultivars have been grown to enhance sweetness or even provide a faster ripening time. These damson cultivars include:
- Blue Violet: Prunus domestica subsp. insititia 'Blue Violet'
- Farleigh: Prunus domestica subsp. insititia 'Farleigh'
- Merryweather: Prunus domestica subsp. insititia 'Merryweather'
- Shropshire Damson: Prunus domestica subsp. insititia 'Shropshire Damson'
- Shropshire Prune: Prunus domestica subsp. insititia 'Shropshire Prune'
Apricot plum (Prunus simonii)
It is called an apricot plum because the pulp is difficult to separate from the stone, similar to an apricot. They have a red peel, although there is great variability within the species. Some are very sweet, while others are quite bitter. For this reason, it is less well known and not as commonly marketed as other kinds of plum varieties on our list. It is originally from China. It is a wild plum that is usually harvested for consumption only by locals.
Despite its relative scarcity, there are cultivars of the apricot plum, including the following:
- Golden Sphere: Prunus simonii var. 'Golden Sphere'
- Red Globe: Prunus simonii var. 'Red Globe'
- Variegated apricot plum: Prunus simonii var. 'Variegata'
Italian plum (Prunus cocomilia)
It produces very round and yellow plums which are very small at just 2 cm in diameter, making them one of the smallest plum varieties on our list. They are plums native to Italy, although their original habitat extends all the way to Greece and Lebanon. It is considered a type of wild plum because it is not domesticated, but it is edible. The taste is more acidic than some plums. There are few known cultivars of Italian plum.
American plum (Prunus Americana)
This is a plum native to the northeastern United States. It has a tart flavor with a size of approximately 2.5 centimeters in diameter (their small size is shown in the photo below). It is consumed both in fresh fruit and in processed products such as jams or confectionery. It was widely consumed by Native Americans, who for centuries have also used the branches for rituals and its fruit for various foodstuffs.
Some popular cultivars of American plums include the following:
- Alderman: Prunus Americana var. 'Alderman'
- Dunja: Prunus Americana var. 'Dunja'
- Methley: Prunus Americana var. 'Methley'
- Ozardk Premier: Prunus Americana var. 'Ozark Premier'
- Superior: Prunus Americana var. 'Superior'
These types of American plum cultivars are usually more flavorful and less astringent than the normal wild plum varieties. In saying this, they are often still used in jams and preserves. There is also a cultivar of Japanese plum known as ‘Methley’.
Cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera)
Also known as the myrobalan plum, the cherry plum is native to Europe. Their common name is due to the small, red fruits this tree produces. They are around 2.5 in diameter and reminiscent of a cherry. Sometimes the fruit can also be yellow or orange. It is one of the first European trees to bloom for spring, becoming a sight to behold due to its flowers which range from bright white to pastel pink.
Due to the aesthetic value of the flowers, it is often used as an ornamental tree for gardens. The fruits it produces can be sweet, but there is a possibility that they are acidic. In Eastern Europe this plum is used to make soups and stews.
There are multiple cultivars of this species. Some include:
- Atropurpurea: Prunus cerasifera var. ‘Pissardii’
- Nigra: Prunus cerasifera var. ‘Nigra’
- Krauter Vesuvius: Prunus cerasifera var. ‘Krauter Vesuvius’
- Lindsayae: Prunus cerasifera var. ‘Lindsayae’
- Thundercloud: Prunus cerasifera var. ‘Thundercloud’
Sand plum (Prunus angustifolia)
It grows in very dry and sandy areas of the United States, hence it is common name of sand plum. They measure approximately 1.5 centimeters in diameter. They are found in yellow or red varieties. The fruits are acidic, but can be harvested as wild plums for use in jams. It was originally cultivated by Native Americans for consumption raw an din preserves. For this reason, they are also known as Chickasaw or Cherokee plums.
Sand plum cultivars include:
- Alderman: Prunus angustifolia var. ‘Alderman’
- Guthrie: Prunus angustifolia var. ‘Guthrie’
- John Rick: Prunus angustifolia var. ‘John Rick’
- Patterson: Prunus angustifolia var. ‘Patterson’
Now you know about the different types of plums you can find in the wild, you may want to learn more about the different types of grapes you can find or the different types of fruit which grow in autumn.
If you want to read similar articles to Plum Varieties - Different Kinds of Plums, we recommend you visit our Outdoor plants category.
- Royal Horticultural society. (n.d.) Plum search. Retrieved from: https://www.rhs.org.uk/search?query=plum&referrerPageUrl=https://www.rhs.org.uk/