Prunus spinosa L. - Slow Blackthorn.

Taxonomic position.

Family Rosaceae Juss., genus Mespilus L.

Morphology and biology.

Abundantly branching, very prickly shrub or, less frequently, small tree, up to 4-8 m tall. Young shoots are covered with short, pilous pubescence. Leaves are alternate, (1) 2-4 (5) cm long, elliptically obovate, cuneate at the base and obtuse at the top, sharply or crenately serrated along the edges. Flowers open earlier than leaves; they occur singly or, very seldom, in pairs, 1.4-1.8 cm in diameter; pedicels are 5-6 mm long, jutting upright, bare or slightly pubescent. Petals are white or with greenish tint. Fruits are about 1 cm in diameter, round, oval or roundish coniform, black-blue, with dense, glaucous blossom. Fruit pulp is green, sour-sweet, expressly astringent. Kernels are ovoid or oval-ovoid, knobby and wrinkled. Entomophilous. Zoo- and ornitochore. Blossoms in March/May; bears fruit in July/August. 2n=32.


Occurs throughout Europe (southern Scandinavia, northwestern areas of Central Europe, central and southern areas of Eastern Europe), the Caucasus, Kazakhstan (spurs of the common Syrt, Mugodzhary), Middle Asia (Kopet Dagh, Sumbar river gorge), Asia Minor, Iran, and Northern Africa (Tunisia).


Xerophyte. Very photophilous. Calcephyte. Blackthorn forms shrubby thickets in forest-steppe and steppe zones along gullies and the slopes of river valleys, as well as along the edges of oak forests. Grows well in soils with underlying limestone.

Utilization and economic value.

Food (fruit), melliferous and ornamental. Used to make jams and stewed fruit drinks. Valued in horticulture as dwarfish tree stock. V.I. Michurin bred numerous cultivars with winter-hardiness, resistance to fungal diseases, better fruit flavor and a non-sloughing habit. Promising for hybridization.


Brezhnev D.D., Korovina O.N. 1981. Wild relatives of cultivated plants in the flora of the USSR. Leningrad: Kolos, pp. 232-233. (in Russian).
Kovalev N.V. 1941. Plum - Prunus L. Flora of the USSR. Vol. 10. Leningrad/Moscow: Publishing House of the USSR Academy of Sciences, pp. 511-512 (in Russian).
Sokolov S.I., Svjaseva O.A., Kubli V.A. 1980. Areas of distribution of trees and shrubs in the USSR. Vol. 2. Leningrad: Nauka, pp. 104. (in Russian).

© I.G. Chukhina

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