Belfast Botanic Gardens Tree Archive

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This is one of a series of short articles about trees in the Belfast Botanic Gardens compiled by the Friends group. The tree tag number relates to the black tree maintenance tags, usually fixed on the tree trunk, 2 to 3m above ground level.
Family: Rosaceae
Prunus cerasifera Ehrh. 'Pissardii'
Purple-leaved plum (also called Pissard's plum and Prunus atropurpurea)

Black tag 239
54o 34.970N
5o 56.047W

This plum discovered by and named after Monsieur Pissard, gardener to the Shah of Persia in the 1880s, is widely grown in Ireland for its spring blossom. It can look glorious in March and April when in flower, but has a rather somb appearance later in the year with its dark purplish leaves and black bark. Described in one book thus "for the rest of the year it is a twiggy mess, worst in summer when bearing muddy brown 'purple' foliage". Some authors clearly don't like it! The flowers are pink in bud and open to almost white, contrasting well with the emerging reddish leaves.

Previously given its own species (P. pissardii or P. atropurpurea) is is now classified as a variety of the Myrobalan plum (the cherry plum) which is native to Iran, although widely naturalised in the UK. Its flowers are typical of the rose family with a large number of stamens, five petals and 5 sepals.

Prunus cerasifera 'Pissardii' in Belfast Botanic Gardens Prunus cerasifera 'Pissardii' flowers
Purple-leaved plum in flower near Botanic
Avenue gate to Belfast Botanic Gardens
Purple-leaved plum in flower in mid-March

flowers and leaves of Prunus cerasifera 'Pissardii'

Reddish leaves open at the same time as flowers, but turn a dull purple later in the summer

Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2009. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.

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