Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wild Plum

The warm, sunny weather has the trees and shrubs racing to display their blooms and get on with fruit production. This is the flower of Wild Plum, Prunus americana. If you were going to use a flower to illustrate typical flower parts, this would be the one. It’s not hard to differentiate male and female parts in a display like this.

All of the trees here are growing along the field borders. They make quite an attractive display when backed up by green leaves and blue sky. None of them seem to manage a straight trunk. I don’t know if the strange growth is a genetic characteristic or just the result of the trees leaning out into the field to get more light.

Wild Plum is not a reliable bloomer at Blue Jay Barrens and many years go by without any flowering. Even when there are flowers, weather conditions have to be just right in order to produce fruit. During three of the past five years we’ve had a mid-May freeze that was severe enough to kill the fruit. If we avoid that, this will be the year for a plum feast.

The insects are doing their part to see that the flowers are pollinated. Most common are a variety of native bees. This particular individual was a representative of the most abundant bee species. It’s actions made it an ideal pollinator. It seemed to trip and tumble its way around each flower cluster in a manner ideally suited to pollen distribution.

The flowers open over a period of several days. While some flowers are past their prime and transitioning to fruit development, there are buds just beginning to open. A prolonged blooming period increases the chances that there will be flowers available during weather suited for insect movement.

The Wild Plum is one of those plants that sometimes seems to be dieing faster than it’s growing. All of the trees have large areas of dead branches, but at the same time they have sections of healthy growth. Little clumps of Wild Plum trees sometimes die completely, but at about the same rate that new clumps appear. I’m happy to see it doing so well this year and hope it can remain healthy in its life and death balancing act.

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