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Sunday, 8 March 2020

Cherry Plum

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is not very common in Calderdale.
There are a few hedges around with plenty of Blackthorn in but then we don't have that many hedges.
There are also a few old Blackthorns here and there, presumably relics from very old hedges.
I don't think it is a local species.
Blackthorn flowers much earlier than Hawthorn and it flowers before it comes into leaf so it really stands out.

If you see what looks like a Blackthorn in full flower right now then have a closer look.
Even rarer in this area is Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera).
Cherry Plum flowers a little earlier than Blackthorn and the flowers open at the same time as the leaves.
So when I spotted this tree in blossom at Cromwell Bottom last week, across the river,
I had to find my way to it and see which it was.

So, I hear you cry, how do you tell which is which?
Well the twigs of Cherry Plum are green, they are brown/black in Blackthorn.
Cherry Plum lacks the long pointed thorns of Blackthorn
And Cherry Plum has reflexed sepals.
See here how the sepals are folded back and so when you look at the flower face on you only see the white petals.

But when you look at the Blackthorn flower you can see the green of the sepals between each petal.

I have very few records for this so please look out for it now and if you see it let me know.


  1. That's interesting Steve. I'm pretty sure there is a fair bit of Blackthorn on Shroggs reclaimed landfill site. I'll check as soon as I get chance.

  2. Im glad you've posted about one of my favourite trees. Cherry plum is from eastern Europe, I've never known it to self-seed, so wherever it is it has probably been planted. It grows very easily from cuttings. I have a couple of them in my garden. The fruit is nice, a bit sharp, with a plummy taste. There is a commonly planted dark purple-leaved form with pink flowers var. 'Pissardii'. The common type is recommended as a tough windbreak.
    If anyone is particularly interested in cherry tree species and varieties, try this book by Naoko Abe: "Cherry Ingram - The Englishman who saved Japan's Blossoms". It's not at all English-hubristic, encompasses modern world history (World War 2 etc) and has a surprising twist at the end. Annie bought it me for my birthday last June and I couldn't put it down.

  3. I'll have to show you the one at Cromwell Bottom, it's in a very odd place to have been planted, down near the toad pond/pylon.
    I would appreciate a cutting if you could do one for me.

  4. There are also some garden privets, well spaced, planted AFTER the last big earth moving went on down there. I suspect a local moth-devotee who has moved away. I'll put some Cherry-plum cuttings in but it might be too late for this winter.

  5. Cherry Plum cuttings in. Be good to go and look at the one at Cromwell Bottom. I could also see if the toads are still breeding at the same spot.

  6. Cherry Plum blossoming in the Luddenden car park - the one with height restriction gates and toilets just past Kershaw House before going in to Luddenden.

    Some good hedges (for Calderdale) are those along the bridleway through Willow Valley Golf Course at Clifton, but I don't know if there's any Cherry Plum. There is some Bird Cherry, but that's fairly common in wooded cloughs.