Japanese or Manchurian Plum?

By Kevin Irvin

This information was taken from the following website: http://www.uga.edu/fruit/plum.html

There seems to be some confusion on what to call Prunus salicina, Japanese or Manchurian Plum? What do you call it? The two names Japanese and Manchurian have been inner changed quite frequently, so let me help clarify why this is so and also provide information on Prunus domestica and other species of Plum.

  1. salicina
    Contrary to the name, this species originated in China, where it was cultivated for thousands of years. It was brought to Japan 200-400 years ago, where it then spread around the world, being falsely called “Japanese plum”. Manchuria is a region in China hence the name Manchurian Plum which is actually correct!
  2. domestica
    This species is native to western Asia, in the Caucasus Mountains adjacent to the Caspian Sea. It was brought to North America by Spanish Missionaries (west coast) and English Colonists (east coast).
  3. European plums – Prunus domestica L. Worldwide, this is one of the main species grown. Fruit are generally oval, smaller, and more variable in color than Japanese plums. In the USA, P. domestica is used for prunes or fruit cocktail or other products, and rarely eaten fresh.
  4. Japanese plums – P. salicina Lindl. and hybrids. These are the most common fresh eating plums in the USA. They are larger, rounder (or heart shaped), and firmer than European plums and are primarily grown for fresh market.
  5. Damsons, Bullace plums, St. Juliens, and Mirabelles – P. insititia L. These are the small, wild plums native to Europe, cultivated there prior to the introduction of P. domestica. The ‘St. Julien’ types are used as dwarf rootstocks for plums. Fruit are small and oval (1 inch), purple and clingstone for Damsons and yellow and freestone for Mirabelles, with heavy bloom. They are used primarily for jams/jellies/preserves.

Since plum scions are genetically diverse, many different species/selections are used as rootstocks. In the USA, Myrobalan 29C (Prunus cerasifera) and Marianna 2624, a hybrid between ‘Myrobalan’ and a Native American plum, are used most frequently since they are widely compatible with most cultivars. Myrobalan 29C produces large trees with slightly delayed ripening, and is not particularly resistant to diseases or other root related problems. Marianna 2624 produces a somewhat smaller tree with slightly earlier ripening, and is resistant to a number of problems confronting other stocks.

California is the primary growing area of most Plums in the U.S.A. mainly because the climate is favorable for reduction of disease and fruit cracking.