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Prunus cerasifera Ehrh.

Cherry Plum, Myrobalan

Modern name

Prunus cerasifera Ehrh.


Prunus domestica var. myrobalan L.

A deciduous, round-headed tree up to 30 ft in height; young bark glabrous. Leaves ovate, oval or obovate, 112 to 212 in. long, 1 to 114 in. wide, toothed, downy along the midrib and veins beneath. Flowers 34 to 1 in. across, pure white, produced usually singly, sometimes two or three together, at each bud of the previous year’s shoots, but often crowded on short spur-like twigs so as to form dense clusters. Fruits smooth, red, 1 to 114 in. in diameter, round, indented at the junction with the stalk. Bot. Mag., t. 5934.

The cherry plum is known only in cultivation, and certainly derives from the wild P. divaricata (see below). It is a well-known tree in gardens, and is sometimes used as a stock for grafting. As flowering trees it and P. divaricata are the most beautiful of the true plums, being almost covered with pure white blossom in March. The fruits are developed not infrequently at Kew, but never in great quantity. They are used for tarts, etc., like ordinary plums and are imported in small quantities from the Continent. P. cerasifera and the cultivars ‘Nigra’ and ‘Pissardii’ make good hedges.

cv. ‘Lindsayae’. – Flowers pale pink, about 34 in. wide. Collected in Persia by Nancy Lindsay in 1937 and given an Award of Merit when shown from Kew February 17, 1948.

cv. ‘Louis Asselin’. – leaves narrower than normal, edged with white. Raised by the french nurseryman Dauthenay and named after his foreman. Described 1895. Also known as ‘elegans’.

cv. ‘Pissardii’. – In spring this tree, like the type, is laden with blossom, which is of a delicate rose. Its foliage, however, is its most distinctive feature; when it first expands it is of a tender ruby-red, changing later to claret colour, finally to a dull heavy purple. Its fruits, too, are purple. This variety was first noted in Persia by M. Pissard, gardener to the Shah, and by him was sent to France in 1880, whence it rapidly spread in cultivation, and is now a very common tree. A.G.M. 1928.

A number of selections from ‘Pissardii’ have been named, of which the best known in Britain is ‘Nigra’, in which the flowers are of a slightly deeper pink and the purple of the leaves also deeper and more persistent. This is of American origin. The similar ‘Woodii’ was raised at Wood’s nursery, Maresfield, E. Sussex, but apparently put into commerce by Späth’s nurseries, Berlin, in 1910. Other named clones are in commerce.

In country gardens ‘Pissardii’ and its allies are often sparse flowering owing to the depredations of bullfinches.

P. divaricata Ledeb. P. cerasifera subsp. divaricata (Ledeb.) Schneid.; P. monticola K. Koch – A deciduous tree or shrub with the same general aspect as P. cerasifera, neither does it appear to differ in the flowers or foliage. The fruits, however, are smaller (about 34 in. across), yellow, and not indented at the junction with the stalk. Probably P. divaricata and P. cerasifera are only varieties of one species. They flower at the same time and are not distinguishable then. There was an old specimen near the Cactus House at Kew which was probably one of the largest in the country. It was 25 ft high, 27 ft through, and its trunk was 3 ft 8 in. in girth. The trees at Kew have rarely borne fruits, but these are quite distinct from cherry plums.

Unlike P. cerasifera, P. divaricata is a genuinely wild species ranging from the Balkans through Asia Minor to the Caucasus, Persia, and Central Asia. It is figured in Bot. Mag., t. 6519.

P. × blireana André P. pissardii blireana fl. pl. Lemoine; P. cerasifera var. blireana (André) Bean – A shrub or small tree of rounded habit to about 15 ft high and wide. Young leaves bronzy red, becoming more or less green by late summer. Flowers bright rose, double, and equal in beauty to a double-pink peach, about 114 in. across. They are borne on the bare stems in March or April.

This plum is believed to be a hybrid between P. cerasifera ‘Pissardii’ and a double form of P. mume. It was put into commerce by Lemoine in 1906 and received an Award of Merit when shown by Messrs Notcutt in 1914. A.G.M. 1928.

In P. × blireana ‘Moseri’ the flowers are smaller and the leaves of a deeper shade. A.M. 1912.

P. ‘Trailblazer’. – Leaves narrowly to broadly oblong-obovate, acuminate, cuneate at the base, bronzy or purplish green above when mature, undersides purplish red. Flowers pure white, in sessile umbels, about 12 in. wide, cup-shaped, borne very profusely in early spring. Fruits not seen, said to be red and edible. A very attractive hybrid between P. cerasifera ‘Nigra’ and some form of P. salicina. According to Dr Boom, it is the same as ‘Hollywood’.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

† cv. ‘Purpusii’. – Although not in commerce in Britain (so far as can be ascertained), an example in the Adelaide Botanic Garden has twice been mentioned recently in The Garden (Journ. R.H.S.) (Vol. 103, p. 335; Vol. 104, p. 465). It has leaves which are bronze with yellow and pink variegation along the midrib, and white flowers. Raised from ‘Pissardii’ and put into commerce by Messrs Hesse of Weener, in 1908. Of like origin is ‘Hessei’, which is shrubby and has narrow, irregularly shaped leaves, dark brown at the centre but with a yellowish margin and a golden rim.

P. × blireana – In ‘Moseri’ the flowers are also paler than in the typical clone.



Other species in the genus