How to identify a plum tree? (+5 types)

In this article, we will answer the question “How to identify a plum tree?”, and what are flowering and fruiting plum trees?

How to identify a plum tree?

Plum trees are one of the most cold-hardy fruit trees and come in different cultivars. Plum trees can be hard to identify If the fruit is absent. 

However, some other distinct characteristics of these trees can be very telling of the type of cultivar of this fruit tree. There are about 5-7 popular varieties of plum. 

Read on If you want to distinguish different well-known varieties of the plum tree from their flowers, bark, height, canopy shape, and leaves, etc.

American plum tree

American plum tree (Prunus Americana) can be easily identified from its 10- to 30-foot height at full maturity and 5- to 12-inch thick trunk. When ripe, the fruits of the American plum tree have a round shape and a blue or red color. 

The leaves have dense small veins. The tips are long and narrow with narrow double teeth on the leaf margins. The bark is dark brown with a scaly texture. While the twigs appear orange-brown. 

Canada plum 

On the other hand, Canada plum (Prunus nigra) tree variety has blunt teeth on the leaf margins. The twigs appear green. 

Damson plum tree

The  Damson plum tree (P. institia) has a 1-inch thick bark. The fruit has dark blue or purple fruits. The flesh is yellow with a firm texture. 

The green elliptical eaves of the Damson plum sometimes exhibit wrinkled upper surfaces with rather pale, softly hairy undersides. This plum variety can grow to about 10 to 20 feet in height. It has a very distinct oval-shaped canopy. 

Methley plum tree (P. salicina)

Methley plum tree (P. salicina) consists of medium to large-sized fruits. These fruits have a round or conical shape with purplish-red skin and red-colored flesh. Just like the Damson tree, 

Methley plum tree grows about 10 to 20 feet in height and width. The white-colored flowers are clustered into an umbrella shape. This plum tree has bright green leaves.

Mexican plum tree (P. mexicana)

Mexican plum tree (P. mexicana) has small, red fruits and orange leaves reminiscing of autumn. 

This plum variety grows 15 to 30 feet in height and 20 to 25 feet in width (round canopy). This variety has distinct fragrant white flowers. 

The general characteristics 

A plum tree is easily identified with its fruit. Plum trees are classified into fruiting and flowering types. The flowering or ornamental plum trees bear fruit that is only edible for birds. These have bright and vibrant foliage with beautiful flowers. 

Fruiting plum trees consist of a round-shaped crown and grow to medium heights. Flowering plum trees are dwarf and have a horizontal canopy. 


Plum leaves have distinct oblong shape leaves that end with a pointed tip. The serrations surrounding the leaves are similar to those present on a knife. 

True plum variety has green leaves. Red to purple leaves are observed in some hybrid varieties. Ornamental plum trees have purple-colored leaves. These purple-colored leaves retain their color through every season.


Edible plum has two types. The hardy European variety grows in temperate regions. It completes its fruition when exposed to chilly temperatures. Examples of this variety include Italian Prune Plum and the Damson Plum. 

The second type of edible or fruiting plum is the Japanese plum. Common examples are Santa Rosa and Satsuma varieties. Plums range in color from yellow, red to purple. The fruit may be anywhere between 1-5 inches in size. 


Plum bark has a deep color, a smooth texture, and looks rather dull. Older plum trees have a slightly textured bark. 

The bark distinguishes the plums from cherry or crabapple. The cherry tree has distinct horizontal lines going in circles around the bark. The bark of the Crabapples has looks plated. The lines from rough squares going up and down the bark. 


Fruiting plums belong to the Rosaceae family consisting of 5 petaled flowers. The ornamental plums or flowering plums consist of a single or double white or pink flower. 

Ornamental plum trees are preferred for their reliable and attractive flowers and stellar disease resistance. 

Prunus triloba is a good example of an ornamental plum tree. It is also called the Double Flowering Plum. It is a shrub with multiple stems. It grows to a height of 12 ft when fully mature. Prunus triloba exhibits double pink flowers during full bloom. 


In this article, we answered the question “How to identify a plum tree?”, and what are flowering and fruiting plum trees?


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Hello, I'm Sana Ameer. I'm a student of Food Science and Technology at UVAS. I like to bake and I aspire to become a Food blogger.