Prunus cerasifera Ehrh. - Myrobalan plum, cherry plum.

Taxonomic position.

Family Rosaceae Juss. genus Prunus L.


Prunus domestica var. mirabolanum L., P. divaricata Ledeb., P. sogdiana Vass., P.caspica Koval. & Ekim.

Morphology and biology.

Tree (often multi-stemmed) or shrub, (1.5) 4-10 (15) m tall, with broadly spreading thin prickly branches. Bark is dark-gray on perennial branches and reddish-brown on young ones. Winter buds are naked or, less frequently, slightly pubescent. Leaves are alternate, (1) 4.5-6 (10) cm long and (0.5) 2-4 (6) cm wide, oval, oval-ovate or oval-lanceolate, with a gradually acuminate tip, narrowly or broadly cuneate base and finely, obtusely or less frequently sharply serrate edges; naked from above and varying on the underside from almost naked to densely pubescent along the veins. Flowers, 2-3 cm in diameter, would open a little earlier than leaves and are settled one by one on shortened twigs or last year's shoots, being supported by rather long, up to 2 cm, naked or sparsely pilous pubescent pedicels. Petals are white, ovate or oval-ovate. Fruits are (0.8) 1.8-2.8 (3.5) cm in diameter, round, oval-shaped or ovoid, varying from yellow, light-red and pink to dark cherry-red and (very seldom) violet, set on drooping thin fruit-stalks. The fruit is not divided by a groove, but only by a line, which is different in color. Fruit pulp is yellow, light, with sour flavor. Fruits contain high amount of citric acid, being however almost completely tannin-free. Kernels are non-detachable from pulp; they are oval or ovate-oval, light-brown, acuminate at the tip, smooth or scabrous, sometimes scrobiculate and striated near the sutures. Entomophilous. Zoo- and ornitochore. Blossoms in March/April; bears fruit in late July/September. 2n=16.


Caucasus, Middle Asia (western Kopet Dagh, Tien Shan - Kara Tau, Chatkal, Fergana and Kirghiz mountain chains, Tashkent Ala Tau, Pamir-Alai - Alai, Turkestan, Zeravshan, Gissar, Vakhsh and Darvaz mountains, the ridge of Peter the Great), Turkey and Iran.


Mesophyte. Photophilous. Grows along mountain ravines and small river valleys, most frequently among the undergrowth of nutwood, apple-tree and mixed forests, usually on soft clay soils, less frequently on stony mountainsides. Spread from steppes to high altitudes, 800 to 2500 m above sea level.

Utilization and economic value.

Food (fruit), melliferous and ornamental. Used to make jams, confitures and stewed fruit drinks. Promising for breeding, because it may be easily crossed with apricot, plum, cherry and almond.


Following N.N. Luneva, the author of contemporary works on the taxonomy of Prunus L. spp., we are convinced that "myrobalan plum, as a species, should bear the only correct and lawful priority name - Prunus cerasifera Ehrh." (Luneva, 1983). The system of sp. P. cerasifera comprises a number of subspecies: P. cerasifera subsp. divaricata (Ledeb.) Schneid.,
P. cerasifera subsp. caspica Luneva, P. cerasifera subsp. turcomanica Luneva, P. cerasifera subsp. orientalis (M. Pop.) Koval., P. cerasifera subsp. iranica Luneva et Erem., P. cerasifera subsp. georgica Erem. et Luneva, P. cerasifera subsp. pontica Luneva.


Brezhnev, D.D., Korovina, O.N. 1981. Wild relatives of cultivated plants in the flora of the USSR. Leningrad: Kolos, pp.228-229 (in Russian).
Luneva, N.N. 1983. Taxonomic position of Iranian myrobalan plum. Works on Applied Botany, Genetics and Plant Breeding, vol.77, pp.106-107 (in Russian).
Luneva, N.N. 1983. Concerning the correct designation of cultivated and wild myrobalan plum. Works on Applied Botany, Genetics and Plant Breeding, vol. 79, pp.19-24 (in Russian).
Luneva, N.N. 1984. Taxonomic position of Turkmenian myrobalan plum. Works on Applied Botany, Genetics and Plant Breeding, vol. 83, pp.102-104 (in Russian).
Luneva, N.N. 1984. The place of oriental myrobalan plum in the system of the species Prunus cerasifera Ehrh. Works on Applied Botany, Genetics and Plant Breeding, vol. 88, pp.106-108.
Luneva, N.N. 1985. About the taxonomic position of Prunus caspica (Rosaceae). Botanical Journal, vol. 70, n.11, pp.19-24(in Russian).
Luneva, N.N. 1991. Wild-growing myrobalan plum of Western Georgia. Works on Applied Botany, Genetics and Plant Breeding, vol.139, pp.72-78 (in Russian).

© I.G.Chukhina

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