Herb: Plum


Latin name: Prunus domestica


Synonyms: Prunus communis


Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)



Medicinal use of Plum:

The dried fruit, known as prunes, is a safe and effective laxative and is also stomachic. The bark is sometimes used as a febrifuge. Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Tree

Height:
12 m
(39 feet)

Flovering:
April

Habitat of the herb:

Found in hedges in Britain.

Edible parts of Plum:

Fruit - raw or cooked. The fruit varies considerably from cultivar to cultivar, but it is generally somewhat mealy, soft and juicy with a delicious flavour ranging from very sweet to acid. The more acid fruits are usually only used for cooking purposes. The fruit varies widely in size according to cultivar but can be 8cm long and contains a single large seed. Seed - raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity. An edible gum is obtained from points of damage on the trunk. The seed contains about 20% of an edible semi-drying oil. It has an agreeable almond smell and flavour. The flowers are eaten. They are used as a garnish for salads and ice cream or brewed into a tea.

Other uses of the herb:

A green dye can be obtained from the leaves. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit. A yellow dye is obtained from the bark. A gum obtained from points of damage along the stem can be used as an adhesive. The ground up seeds are used cosmetically in the production of face-masks for dry skin. A semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed. No details of its uses. Wood - hard, compact. Used for musical instruments.

Propagation of Plum:

Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame. Layering in spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Found in hedges in Britain.

Known hazards of Prunus domestica:

Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.