Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Prunus is a genus of trees and shrubs, including the plums, cherries, peaches, apricots and almonds. It is traditionally placed within the rose family Rosaceae as a subfamily, the Prunoideae (or Amygdaloideae), but sometimes placed in its own family, the Prunaceae (or Amygdalaceae). There are several hundred species of Prunus, spread throughout the northern temperate regions of the globe.
The flowers are usually white to pink, with five petals and five sepals. They are borne singly, or in umbels of two to six or more on racemes. The fruit of all Prunus species is a drupe with a relatively large "stone". Leaves are simple and usually lanceolate, unlobed and toothed along the margin.
Some treatments break the genus up into several different genera, but this segregation is not widely recognised other than at the subgeneric rank. ITIS recognises just the single Genus Prunus, with the list of species as shown in the box on the right.
- Prunus subgenera:
- Subgenus Amygdalus: almonds and peaches. Axillary buds in threes (vegetative bud central, two flower buds to sides). Flowers in early spring, sessile or nearly so, not on leafed shoots. Fruit with a grove along one side; stone deeply grooved. Type species Prunus dulcis (Almond).
- Subgenus Prunus: plums and apricots. Axillary buds solitary. Flowers in early spring stalked, not on leafed shoots. Fruit with a grove along one side; stone rough. Type species Prunus domestica (Plum).
- Subgenus Cerasus: cherries. Axillary buds single. Flowers in early spring in corymbs, long-stalked, not on leafed shoots. Fruit not groved; stone smooth. Type species Prunus cerasus (Sour cherry).
- Subgenus Lithocerasus: dwarf cherries . Axillary buds in threes. Flowers in early spring in corymbs, long-stalked, not on leafed shoots. Fruit not groved; stone smooth. Type species Prunus pumila (Sand cherry).
- Subgenus Padus: bird cherries. Axillary buds single. Flowers in late spring in racemes on leafy shoots, short-stalked. Fruit not groved; stone smooth. Type species Prunus padus (European bird cherry).
- Subgenus Laurocerasus: cherry-laurels . Axillary buds single. Flowers in early spring in racemes, not on leafed shoots, short-stalked. Fruit not groved; stone smooth. Mostly evergreen (all the other subgenera are deciduous). Type species Prunus laurocerasus (European cherry-laurel).
The genus Prunus includes the almond, apricot, cherry, peach and plum, all of which have cultivars developed for commercial fruit production. The edible part of the almond is the seed; the almond fruit is a drupe and not a "nut". There are also a number of species, hybrids, and cultivars grown strictly as ornamentals, usually for their profusion of flowers, occasionally for leaves and bark. These ornamentals include the group that may be collectively called flowering cherries.
Because of their considerable value as both food and ornamental plants, many Prunus species have been introduced to parts of the world to which they are not native. Many of the Old World species are grown for ornament or fruit, and have been planted throughout the world; and some have become naturalised beyond their native range.
Selected species by continent
Note: these lists are probably incomplete.
- Prunus armeniaca - Apricot. Central Asia to China.
- Prunus avium - Wild Cherry, also called the Gean, Mazzard, or Sweet Cherry, and the parent of most of the edible cherries. Europe to West Asia.
- Prunus brigantina - Brianšon Apricot. Southeast France.
- Prunus campanulata - Bell-flowered Cherry. Southern China, Taiwan.
- Prunus canescens - Greyleaf Cherry. China.
- Prunus cantabridgensis - Cambridge Cherry. Unknown origin, probably east Asia, possibly hybrid.
- Prunus cerasus - Sour Cherry. Europe and southwest Asia.
- Prunus cerasifera - Myrobalan Plum or Cherry Plum. Southeast Europe and southwest Asia.
- Prunus cocomilia - Naples Plum. Southeast Europe (Italy, Balkans).
- Prunus cornuta - Himalayan Bird Cherry. Himalaya.
- Prunus dasycarpa - Black Apricot. Probably a hybrid P. armeniaca x P. cerasifera.
- Prunus davidiana - David's Peach. - China.
- Prunus domestica - Plum and Damson. Believed to be a hybrid, probably from West Asia and the Caucasus.
- Prunus dulcis - Almond. Southeast Europe, southwest Asia.
- Prunus fruticosa - Ground Cherry. Northeastern Europe, northern Asia.
- Prunus grayana - Gray's Bird Cherry. Japan.
- Prunus incana - Willow Cherry. Asia Minor, Caucasus.
- Prunus incisa - Fuji Cherry. Japan.
- Prunus jacquemontii - Afghan Cherry. Northwest Himalaya in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Prunus laurocerasus - Cherry Laurel, of the Balkans and West Asia.
- Prunus lusitanica - Portugal Laurel. From Iberia.
- Prunus maackii - Manchurian Cherry . Northeast Asia.
- Prunus mahaleb - St Lucie Cherry, or Mahaleb Cherry. Europe.
- Prunus mume - Ume, aka Japanese apricot. China and Japan.
- Prunus nipponica - Japanese Alpine Cherry. Japan.
- Prunus padus - Bird Cherry. Northern Eurasia.
- Prunus persica - Peach, origin uncertain, probably West Asia.
- Prunus prostrata - Mountain Cherry. Mediterranean region.
- Prunus salicina - Japanese Plum. Japan, China.
- Prunus sargentii - Sargent's Cherry. Northern Japan.
- Prunus serrula - Tibetan Cherry. Western China to central Asia.
- Prunus serrulata - Japanese Cherry (Sakura). Eastern Asia.
- Prunus sibirica - Siberian Apricot. Northeastern Asia.
- Prunus simonii - Apricot Plum. Northern China.
- Prunus speciosa - Oshima Cherry. Oshima & Izu Islands of Japan.
- Prunus spinosa - Blackthorn or Sloe. Europe, North Africa, West Asia.
- Prunus subhirtella - origin uncertain, but probably East Asia.
- Prunus tenella - Dwarf Russian Almond. Black Sea area.
- Prunus tomentosa - Downy Cherry. Southwestern China, Himalaya.
- Prunus yedoensis - Yoshino Cherry. Japan, probably of cultivated hybrid origin.
- Prunus allegheniensis - Allegheny Plum. In the Appalachian belt.
- Prunus americana - American Plum. Most of the U.S. east of the Great Plains and southernmost Canada.
- Prunus angustifolia - Chickasaw Plum. Southeast U.S.
- Prunus besseyi - Rocky Mountain Cherry. Great Plains & eastern Rocky Mts.
- Prunus caroliniana - Carolina Cherry Laurel. Southeast U.S.
- Prunus emarginata - Bitter Cherry. British Columbia to Oregon.
- Prunus hortulana - Hortulan Plum. Mostly Missouri and Illinois and surrounding areas.
- Prunus ilicifolia. Hollyleaf Cherry. California.
- Prunus maritima - Beach Plum. Northeast Atlantic coast.
- Prunus mexicana - Bigtree Plum. Southeast Great Plains.
- Prunus munsoniana - Wild-goose Plum. Mostly Missouri and eastern Kansas and surrounding areas.
- Prunus nigra - Canada Plum. Southeasternmost Canada west to Manitoba and northeasternmost U.S.
- Prunus pensylvanica - Pin Cherry. Southern half of Canada and northernmost U.S.
- Prunus pumila - Sand cherry. Southeast and south-central Canada and northern U.S. west to Wyoming.
- Prunus serotina - Black Cherry. Southeasternmost Canada and most of U.S. east of Great Plains, also found in Arizona and Guatemala.
- Prunus subcordata - Oregon Plum. Oregon, California.
- Prunus virginiana - Chokecherry. Southern Canada and most of eastern U.S. except for deep south.
- Partial Prunus species listing: by National Genetics Resources Program
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