THE NATIVE WILD PLUM
The Wild Plum is one of nature's rarest and most unique fruits. It grow at the edges of Oregon, California, and Nevada's northern high desert at altitudes between 4000 and 7000 feet. Here it tolerates great extremes of heat, cold alkaline soils, and drought. In its native state, the wild plum grows on a large bush five to six feet tall. The fruit is similar to a cherry in size and has a distinctive tart flavor. The Indian tribes of his area gathered the ripe fruit and dried it for winter to garnish their wild fowl and game. In 1832, Hudson Bay trappers on their southwest expedition from Canada to California arrived in this area starved and weary. They killed their first deer in many months and also discovered this delicious fruit they named the Wild Plum. The wild plum was rediscovered in 1843 by Oregon Trail pioneer, Captain Lassen, on his route to California. He transplanted them in the Sacramento Valley, but due to climate and soil differences, they would not produce.
WHAT IS THE WILD PLUM
The Pacific or Western plum (Prunus subcordata, Bentham) is a native species found growing wild in a relatively limited region east of the Coast Range from southern Oregon to central California. It occurs in greatest abundance in Lake and Klamath counties in Oregon and Modoc and Sierra counties in California. While the greatest concentration of the native thickets in California seems to be in the general vicinity of Mount Shasta, the plum is found in more or less abundance east and south of the Nevada line, especially in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada's. It has been reported as far south as Yosemite Valley.
The plum usually forms thickets of small to large shrubby trees along streams in canyons, on hillsides, or in the open areas of pine forest. In other cases, the thickets are found on ridges which are thought to be the shore lines of prehistoric lakes. There is a general similarity in the sites on which the plum thrives and spread through out the region, so much that one can almost predict the location of the thickets.
The largest trees are found in these thickets growing on the deeper, sandy-loam soils in the canyons where water is ample, and the richer bottomlands adjoining the old lake beds. The hardiness of the species and its ability to adapt itself to adverse conditions is typified by the scrubby little thickets found growing out of rock slides at high elevations. An occasional thicket is found, however, where drought or exposure has all but killed out the stand.