Canada Plum – Prunus Nigra: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Forbidden Fruit of Wild Plants

Table of Contents

In Ojibwe, bagesaanaatig means plum tree. This edible and medicinal plum tree used to be widespread throughout Ontario. The stones were dropped along trails and around villages, wrapping the world in a plum thicket.

But now Canada plum is uncommon here, which is surprising as wildlife loves to gobble up the fruit, so you’d think it be dispersed all over even without human help. You might yet find it on the edges of woods or in fencerows.

Why is it so sparse now? Likely because it attracts an aphid that attacks potato crops, so it has been cut down in many areas. This bone-to-pick has made such a difference to the plum that it seemed like the aspect to note in our title. Our “forbidden” plum tree isn’t “bad” though…

Canada Plum – Prunus Nigra
Canada Plum – Prunus Nigra

Edible Uses of Canada Plum

The small (maybe an inch thick) edible fruits are both tinier and tougher, and not as sweet as the plums you’d find in a store. But they are fleshier than their wild cherry cousins. And after a good frost they’ll sweeten somewhat.

The plums can be dried or cooked. They can be sweetened and made into preserves or marmalade, even plum sauce or plum butter.

Sun dried fruits can be boiled to make a coffee substitute.

Medicinal Uses of Canada Plum

Canada plum is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive
  • Integumentary
  • Respiratory

Medicinal tags include Astringent. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes the astringent rootlets or bark tea for diarrhea and upset stomach.

Alternative Uses of Canadian Plum

The leaves yield a green dye and the fruits a grey to green dye. As for dyes it’s a fixative; the inner bark and roots can be mixed into other plant dye recipes to fix the colors.

Its small size means the wood is not commercially used, but it’s still decent for woodworking. And neat – when bruised the wood turns red.

Growing Prunus Nigra

I bought my Canada plum from the Hardy Fruit Tree Nursery in Quebec. They can make a wonderful thicket over time, and I hope to surround my “lawn” with this among other spreading shrubs. Will it spell ruin for my potatoes? I’m going to tempt fate anyway. If I have a problem with the aphids in the future this entry will be updated with the details! My plan B is to grow the potatoes in a bag and make a potato bag bug suit out of cheap bug suits and duck tape – if need be – wish me luck. 😉

They do like full sun. Once the plant is established it should spread rapidly through suckers, becoming a birds paradise of a thicket.


And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

#ads in References

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Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants: A Historical Survey with Special Reference to the Eastern Indian Tribes

The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine

An Eclectic Guide to Trees East of the Rockies

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants (Out of Print)

Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants

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2 thoughts on “Canada Plum – Prunus Nigra: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Forbidden Fruit of Wild Plants”

  1. They’re ripe now!! They’re the size of a fat cherry maybe, sweet and tart!! I’ll be making a little plum sauce later today. I use a cherry pitter.


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