The Q&A Archives: Plum Tree ID

Question: I want to identify the plum tree my family had 30 years ago in Maryland. It may have been Japanese, its fruit were large (for plums), the fruit stayed green on the outside until just before it was perfect to pick when it turned purple, with still a hint of green. The flesh was an incredible deep, deep purple-red. When ripe the fruit was super sweet, juicey, and a little firm. These were incredible plums. Also will I need two of them for cross polination, or just another plum tree or just another fruit tree?

Answer: There are so many plum varieties and hybrids, it's impossible for me to positively identify your plum. I checked several references, and found one that might fit the description:

'Elephant Heart': large, heart-shaped fruits, skin is first reddish and bronze-green, then turning to dark reddish purple when completely ripe. Dark purple-red, very juicy flesh.

I found this variety in a somewhat outdated catalog from:

Southmeadow Fruit Gardens
Box SM
Lakeside, MI 49116
616-469-2865, Fax: 616-422-2411

The catalog doesn't state whether this variety needs a second tree to pollinate it, so you'll have to check with them if you decide to order it. Plums vary in whether or not they require cross-pollination. If this variety does need a pollinator, be sure to check with the nursery about an appropriate choice, since not all plums will pollinate each other effectively.

Regarding cross-pollination of fruit trees: Some types of fruit trees won't set fruit unless they are cross-pollinated, while others are self-fertile. Pollination requirements vary with fruit type, and even within classes--for example, some plums are self-pollinating, others are not. However, most fruit trees will produce a better crop if a compatible pollinator is growing nearby. One of the keys to compatibility is that the trees flower at the same time; also, some trees--certain pear varieties, for example--produce pollen that is incompatible with other pear varieties, so always seek advise from an experienced nurseryman.

I hope this helps!

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