Locate these trees in early spring (February–March) when the various named varieties burst into very attractive blossoms in tones of pink and white. Leaves soon flush out, some green, some copper-colored, only the fallen petals reminding us of the brief show. Later the small plums ripen, often in very heavy crops, and they are good to eat. Numerous small seedlings spring up if the soil is moist. Variety ‘Atropurpurea’ has coppery leaves and red plums and reproduces spontaneously. See them on Santa Teresa Street at Lomita Drive.
Emma T. Capps has written and illustrated an account of gathering cherry plum fruit, Jam Days, which also includes a recipe for cherry plum jam.
P. cerasus, the sour cherry, was brought back to Italy by Roman General Lucullus after fighting Mithradates. He also brought back the name Cerasus, the latinized form of the Greek town name Kerasos, in Pontus (Eastern Black Sea). P. laurocerasus, the cherry laurel, has shiny leaves that are used for giving desserts a bitter-almond flavor.
So many varieties of flowering Prunus exist that listing under species is hardly useful. The middle of February is the time to survey the local scene. A row of a dozen or so pink flowering Prunus can be seen at 820 and 828 Pine Hill Road. Also visit 650 Mayfield Avenue, including the Dolores Street side and the whole length of Mayfield Avenue fronting Florence Moore Hall. The flowering plums around Memorial Church are mainly P. × blireiana.
Name derivation: Prunus – Latin name for the plum tree; cerasifera – cherry-bearing; blireana – of Bléré, France.
About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. John Rawlings added the note on Jam Days ca. 2011.