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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Prunus cerasifera 'Thundercloud' - Thundercloud Plum

The purple leaf plums are in the top 5 trees planted in California, and as Michael Dirr says, "nothing separates a fool from his money faster than a purple leaf plum". Small rounded canopy to maybe 25 - 30 feet, deciduous, with a floral display in late winter around here, early spring in colder climates.  In colder climates they are a welcome sight, in our climate they don't have that explosive bloom and seem to start early and bloom for a long time but not heavily. Generally not long lived, and usually covered with upright suckers (water sprouts) in the canopy.

The leaves are deciduous, simple, 2-3" long, ovate to elliptical, finely serrated margins, dark purple until later summer and they turn dirty green. They have a small gland at the base of the leaf blade where the petiole starts.

Stems are on the thin side, slightly grooved, and purple as well.

Flowers are pink, about an inch across, with 5 petals with a dark pink throat and numerous male parts. Fragrant. A number of PLP's have white flowers.

Misidentification: There are two cultivars of PLP's that are almost identical, 'Thundercloud' and 'Krauter's Versuvius' and I am not sure I can tell them apart without seeing them in early spring and if they have not been pruned. How important is it to know? Well, the experts suggest that 'Krauter's Versuvius' is more tolerant of warmer and drier conditions, which is great for inland and southern areas, but might not be critical here. It is also smaller and more upright, and its leaves are darker red and less bronzy than 'Thundercloud'. " (Jacobson. 1990).

Locations: Pretty common,
Nice group on the corner of Soqeul Dr and Fairway Dr, on the ocean side of Soquel.

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