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Prunus insititia

Damson

Damson, damson plum (Eng), ciruelo silvestre (Spa), prunyoner (Cat), lapatxondoa (Baq), abruñeiro (Glg), abrunheiro (Por).

Native

DID YOU KNOW...? The damson tree is used as a rootstock for many fruit trees, a fact which is alluded to by its Latin name insititia, meaning ‘established’.

DESCRIPTION

A very branching shrub that can acquire the form of a tree of up to 6 m tall. It may have some thorny branches, but it is normally inerm (without spines). The leaves are deciduous, simple, alternate, and more or less elliptical or egg-shaped. They have a finely serrated margin and are 3-6 cm long by 1-4 cm wide. They are hairy along the veins and leaf stalk, which is approximately 1 cm long and lacks glands. The flowers are white and solitary, and the fruits are small plums 2-3 cm in diameter and green or violet in colour, covered by an apparently powdery layer, the bloom. They have a sharp taste, somewhere between bitter and sour.

ECOLOGY

This little tree is usually found within deciduous or evergreen forests, where it occurs in cool and relatively humid spots, associated with valleys, water courses, ravines and stream beds. It can be found in clearings, shrubby fringes, and grows from altitudes of 500 m to 1500 m.

DISTRIBUTION

Although this tree is originally from central and southern Europe, it ranges across all of northern Africa and southwestern Asia. It is absent from the Balearic Islands, and on the Iberian Peninsula it is very scattered and hybridises with other species of the same genus. However, it is more abundant in the northern half, especially in the northeast.