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Prunus

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Prunus
Almond flower.jpg
Scientific Classification
Species
  • Prunus alabamensis
  • Prunus alleghaniensis
  • Prunus americana
  • Prunus andersonii
  • Prunus angustifolia
  • Prunus armeniaca
  • Prunus avium
  • Prunus caroliniana
  • Prunus cerasifera
  • Prunus cerasus
  • Prunus domestica
  • Prunus dulcis
  • Prunus emarginata
  • Prunus fasciculata
  • Prunus fremontii
  • Prunus fruticosa
  • Prunus geniculata
  • Prunus glandulosa
  • Prunus gracilis
  • Prunus havardii
  • Prunus hortulana
  • Prunus ilicifolia
  • Prunus japonica
  • Prunus laurocerasus
  • Prunus maritima
  • Prunus maximowiczii
  • Prunus mexicana
  • Exochorda
  • Fallugia
  • Prunus lusitanica
  • Prunus maackii
  • Prunus mahaleb
  • Prunus minutiflora
  • Prunus mume
  • Prunus munsoniana
  • Prunus murrayana
  • Prunus myrtifolia
  • Prunus nigra
  • Prunus occidentalis
  • Prunus ×orthosepala
  • Prunus padus
  • Prunus ×palmeri
  • Prunus pedunculata
  • Prunus pensylvanica
  • Prunus persica
  • Prunus pleuradenia
  • Prunus pumila
  • Prunus rivularis
  • Prunus salicina
  • Prunus serotina
  • Prunus serrulata
  • Physocarpus
  • Prunus ×slaviniia
  • Prunus spinosa
  • Prunus subcordata
  • Prunus subhirtella
  • Prunus susquehanae
  • Prunus tenella
  • Prunus umbellata
  • Prunus virginiana
  • Prunus ×yedoensis


Plum.jpg
The Blackthorn, an Eastern European variety of plum

Prunus, though Latin for plum, actually contains cherries, apricots, almonds, nectarines, and peaches, as well as plums. An extremely important genus, its fruit are staples the world over. This genus contains over 400 trees and shrubs. Also, several of its trees play a pivotal role in Asian culture, especially China. Many of its classical paintings depict the peach tree. The members of this genus make up an industry worth millions of dollars, and are an everyday sight to many people the world over

Body Design

The European Plum

The genus prunus contains a very large amount of deciduous trees and shrubs. These plants are in great abundance, as most of their fruits are edible and they produce beautiful flowers and foliage. There are very many varieties of these species, as some were bred for taste, others abundance, and still more for beauty. Most species can be found in a temperate climate, though there are several which grow in more mild regions.

The cherry:
Having originated in Asia Minor and the Middle East, the cherry is an extremely beautiful tree which generally provides delicious fruit. The cherry is usually divided into two types: The sweet cherry and the tart (or sour) cherry. If you head to your local grocery, the dark red cherries, also known as pie cherries, that are sold there would be classified as sweet cherries. Also, yellowish sweet cherries can also be found in farmers markets as well as several groceries. Tart cherries are almost never sold to be eaten. Though the cherry tastes quite good, the cherry tree is also bred for its blossom. Its brilliant shades of white and pink can be seen during spring and are so beautiful there is even a festival held in celebration of its beautiful blossoms. The cherry tree also makes a great hedge, with P. laurocerasus being a popular choice. However this glossy shrub is harmful if eaten, and parents should plant it with discretion. [2]

The apricot:
Another descendant from Asia, these fruit are highly prized as a delicious treat. Also some varieties are grown for their flowers. These fruits can also be seen quite frequently in an urban setting because they tolerate pollution much more than other plants. Consequently, a great many of these plants are grown in California, and many can be seen in cities such as Los Angeles. However the fruit of these apricot trees are very different than that of their forefathers. The relatively pure-blooded apricot trees are shrubby, and only fifteen feet high, only about half the height of the average European Apricot Tree, which is grown in the U.S. Also, the fruit of the Asian Apricot Tree grows to be only a few inches long, dwarfed by their European cousins, which tend to be the size of a medium apple. Scientists theorize that early Mediterranean traders used extensive selective breeding to create a plant so large compared to its ancestors. These plants bloom early, meaning a warm period during the winter or a spring frost decimates the plant's fruit. This means that apricots grow well in areas with predictable seasons, but in unpredictable areas they tend to suffer. [2]

The almond:
Though there are many varieties of the almond tree. The Common Almond, hence the name, is the main type grown for cultivation. This soft shelled, sweet nut is a widely popular ingredient in foods all over the United States, and is grown in large numbers. This small tree produces white flowers but is mainly grown for its nut. [2]

The nectarine and Peach:
Peaches are also included in this section as in actuality they are the same species. They are made separate by only a single gene, for fuzzy skin. Peach trees which produce the fruit with fuzzy skin, will produce a nectarine every once in a while and vice versa. Nectarines, which have smooth skin, are also a bit smaller than peaches. These fruits originated in China and were originally grown not for their fruit but for their blossoms and branches, and can be seen depicted in many Chinese paintings. These trees are fairly easy to take care of, and are even self-pollinating! However, the average peach tree only lives about twelve years, but you only need to plant one fruit to get another one! Make sure to plant it about two to three years in advance, however, as that amount of time is needed for the plant to mature. Also, though this species is easy to take care of, it is not very hardy. It can only be grown in warm, mild climates. [2]

The plum:
The plum, another very common plant grown in the United States, can be seen in every single state. However, they are most often seen in Idaho, Washington, California, and Oregon, as the climate in those states is quite felicitous for growing this plant. The leaves are usually egg shaped, with serrated edges, and produce a round, purple, thin skinned fruit with a blue, purple, red, green, or yellow meat. There are over two thousand types of plum. The modern plum is also quite different from its cousins in that it has three separate backgrounds: the Japanese plum, the European plum, and the American plum. The japanese plum is sweet, and grows tarter the closer the flesh is to the pit. These plants grow well in heat but are early bloomers, meaning that they may be decimated by a spring frost. The European plums are hardier than their Asian cousins, as they bloom later in the year, making them less susceptible to a change in the weather. However, as they bloom later, they require a long growing season, and cannot survive without one. American plums are even hardier than the European plum. Tolerating both heat, cold, and drought, the fruits of this tree can be found in jellies, wines, preserves, liqueurs, and even sold fresh! They also are sometimes grown specifically for their scent and beauty. [2]

Life Cycle

The life cycle of a member of the genus Prunus tends not to differ much from that of many other types of vegetation. As these plants are angiosperms, they do flower and produce fruit, as well as seeds. Like many other plants they are vascular, and do not produce spores. The life cycle of a member of Prunus begins with a seed. A dicot, it will produce two cotyledons as it begins to grow. As it matures, its trunk becomes woody and it begins to flower. At this stage the flowers are used to fertilize other members of its species, and the seeds begin to grow. Encased in a large ovary called fruit, the seed will eventually fall to the ground, and a new member of Prunus will begin its life. [3]

Ecology

Prunus Spinosa

The Peach: Though not very many can associate the peach with a distinct country or area, it plays a very distinct role in Chinese culture. They have been cultivated there since 1100 BC and are a frequent subject of classical Chinese paintings. [4] The peach entered into the West through India and Persia, and made it to Greece in 300BC. From there it continued to spread to the Americas. This widespread use of the fruit demonstrates its relatively easy cultivation. Tolerating temperatures from -15 to -22 degrees Fahrenheit (though temperatures this cold would not produce a desirable crop) the Peach tends to be less cold-hardy than other fruit trees. Also, this plant does tend to flower early, and can be killed by spring frost. [5]

The Almond: A bit larger than the peach and a bit longer lived, even the almond tree’s fruit resembles that of a peach tree’s until it ripens. Very similar to the peach, and flowering even earlier, the almond tends to not be as hardy as the peach. It tends to grow well between 28° and 48° N and 20° and 40° S. This tree grows well in mild climates, such as the Mediterranean, and does not do well when faced with spring frosts. [6]

The plum: The plum tends to be a rather hardy plant, and can be grown in almost every area of the United States. The plum is believed to have originated in Eastern Europe, around the Caspian Sea, and was heavily cultivated in Damascus. This fruit is very popular in the United States, and can be found in almost every form. As the plum tends to do well in many environments, all they really require is disease and pest control as well as a little pruning. These fruits are grown in Norway, Sweden, Moldova, Ukraine, Germany, Belarus, Romania, China, and Turkey. [7]

The cherry: A very widely grown fruit, there are multiple species all over the northern hemisphere, and especially in Asia. The native habitat of this species is believed to lie between the Caspian sea and the Balkans. However, this was centuries before agricultural history was recorded. Cherries can be grown in any area with a moderate climate, and so are very popular the world over, with the majority of production occurring in the United States. There are also very many cherries grown in Western Europe, Argentina, Chile, Australia, and Canada. [8]

Toxicity

Though many species of the genus prunus are fit for consumption, not all are beneficial. Many species, including the chokecherry and blackcherry, have poisonous pits, which can kill if eaten in sufficient amount. [9]Bitter almonds are also very poisonous, again with potential to kill if not cooked properly. In fact, in many countries undercooked almonds are illegal to be sold. [10] Also, the peach, if not poisonous, might as well be if it is not grown organically. Ninety-six percent of all inorganic peaches tested for pesticides were positive for at least two! Pesticides are designed to kill, and needless to say they are not helpful to the body. Also, apricot seeds can be poisonous and must not be consumed in large quantities. [11] However, as dire as these warnings seem, overall these fruits are very beneficial, and are a source of many vital nutrients.

Gallery

References

  1. Martin, A.C., H.S. Zim, A.L. Nelson, Yarrow, G.K., and D.T. Yarrow.Prunus L. plants.usda.gov. Web. accessed at: April 5, 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Prunus - Almond, Apricot, Cherry, Nectarine, Peach, Plum. botany.com. Web. accessed at: May 15, 2012. Author Unknown.
  3. Life Cycle of Cherry Trees. www.ehow.com. Web. accessed at: May 21, 2012. Author Unknown
  4. Thacker, Christopher. The history of gardens. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985. p. 57. Print.
  5. Peach - Prunus persica http://www.fruit-crops.com. Web. accessed at April 22, 2012. Author Unknown.
  6. Almond http://www.britannica.com. Web. accessed at April 22, 2012. Author Unknown.
  7. Plum www.britannica.com. Web. Author Unknown. accessed at April 22, 2012. Author Unknown.
  8. Cherry Web. Author Unknown. accessed at April 22, 2012. Author Unknown.
  9. CHERRY, CHOKECHERRY, PLUM (PRUNUS SPECIES). http://museum.gov.ns.ca. Web. accessed at May 22, 2012. Author Unknown.
  10. Top 10 Toxic Foods We Love To Eat www.toptenz.net. Web. accessed at May 22, 2012. Author Unknown.
  11. Poison warning over apricot seeds. www.dailymail.co.uk. Web. accessed at May 22, 2012. Author Unknown.