Prunus X ‘Purple Pride’ USPP 23742 is a unique introduction. It’s a burgundy-foliaged seedling of Prunus angustifolia ‘Guthrie’ – a Chickasaw plum introduced many years ago by Charles Webb of Superior Trees in Florida.
I have admired a Chickasaw plum called ‘Guthrie’ since the mid-1990s. Planted on the west side of the Mast Arboretum, this tree quickly became popular for its fruit. With larger fruit than our normal Chickasaw plums in East Texas, the tree is also more trunk forming than thicket forming. With their parents nearby providing directions and advice, I would find kids scurrying up the tree to gather fruit. In 2007, I confronted one of those thieving families and told them sternly they could keep the fruit, but would they please bring Dawn the pits when they were through with them. Believe it or not, several big bags of pits did arrive at her headhouse doorstep. While Dawn balked a bit, thought this was “gross”, she did clean them up and then stratified hundreds of seed. Out of those seedlings that emerged, we discovered five that popped up with burgundy foliage. ‘Purple Pride’ was one of those seedlings, and it grew into a tree of columnar form with denser branching and it featured strong burgundy foliage in the spring and fall.
I queried Charles Webb, Superior Trees, Florida, for the history of Prunus angustifolia ‘Guthrie’ and he wrote me back 11/17/2011, “I, Charles Webb, discovered Guthrie plum in the early 1990s in Madison County, Florida. I was scouting for Chickasaw plum seed when I noticed a single old plum tree with a few large, attractive fruit that were also tasty. The old tree had more dead than live branches and no growth suitable for rooting but I felt the plant was worthy of preserving. I made a single hack with a machete on the back of the tree to induce sprouting. Upon my return the following summer there was a nice healthy sprout that resulted in three rooted specimens that were outplanted in my fruit orchard. These three plants were the source of cuttings for the propagation of Guthrie plum. The name Guthrie was chosen because a Guthrie family was the nearest resident to the old tree. These three trees plus several more continue as our source of cuttings. I hope this information will serve your needs. I look forward to seeing your selection with purple leaves. Charles Webb”. Isn’t that a great story?
Cutting propagation of this seedling of ‘Guthrie’ was first attempted in June 2007. Since then, Dawn Stover, Research Associate, SFA Mast Arborretum has undertook many rooting studies and found the clone exceptionally easy to root (90+%). A good starting point for propagators is to choose 4-5” softwood cuttings collected in June and rooted under intermittent mist.
In the container, ‘Purple Pride’ is very vigorous and a saleable plant can be produced in a three or five gallon container in one year.
The characteristics of this cultivar have been stable and are reproduced true to type in successive generations. Key features of this small flowering tree include, 1) foliage that is deep burgundy in color with new leaves emerging bright dark red. The foliage coloration is retained from spring through fall, with only slight greening during the summer months, 2) ‘Purple Pride’ exhibits foliage that appears clean and disease free, 3) ‘Purple Pride’ can be readily trained into a single trunk, 4) white flowers that are conspicuous against the burgundy foliage, 5) the red fruit has a nice flavor 6) easily propagated by cuttings, softwood and semi-hardwood under mist in June for best results, 7) strong drought resistance once established for a few years., finally, 8) we feel that ‘Prunus Pride’ would be useful when planted in wildlife food plots in the south as the burgundy foliage allows land managers to easily recognize ‘Purple Pride’ plants in a brushland and avoid them during mowing regimes.
Chickasaw plums enjoy a large range including Missouri, west to Kansas, southern Nebraska, and extreme southeastern Colorado, south to extreme eastern New Mexico, to Texas and Louisiana. It is naturalized east to central Florida, north to New Jersey, western Virginia, southern Ohio, and Illinois. It was extensively naturalized and spread by Indians in prehistoric times (Little, 1979). According to Sargent (1965), the original native range was thought to be central Texas and Oklahoma. In William Bartram’s travels through the southeastern U S in the late 18th Century, he wrote that “he never saw the Chickasaw plum wild in the forests but always in old deserted Indian plantations”. He hypothesized that the Chickasaw Indians brought it from the Southwest beyond the Mississippi River (Bartram, 1791).
Fruit is red turning to burgundy. We have seen very light crops at SFA and ‘Purple Pride’ definitely needs a pollinator variety to improve fruit set. Plant Methley, Morris, or a similar variety nearby. Tree blooms in mid-March at SFA and usually avoids frost but fruit set has been poor, certainly no comparison to the heavy crops of the parent, ‘Guthrie’.
The tree has been evaluated in a wide range of testing locations. Jim Robbins, University of Arkansas (email@example.com) has had the plant for years at three locations: Fayetteville, Little Rock, and Hope. Four plants at each location, full sun in the field, with drip irrigation. No pruning or training. Plants exceeded expectations. Planted in early 2011, the following image was in the Fall 2012. Jim’s comments are relevant: “A wow plant. Fast growing. Upright habit. Will lend itself to a single trunk tree. No bacterial scorch. A burgundy foliage Chickasaw. Fruiting yet to be determined. Image below was taken in the Fall 2012 and illustrates upright plant habit. In these three test plots, there was a trend to increasing growth South to North.”
Doug Arnold and Gary Price of Trees USA, Lindale, Texas report the tree looks good in container production. Good foliage quality with no sign of scorch, unlike other purple leaf plums. Other reports from cooperating nurseries suggest good foliage quality free of diseases that normally torment other purple leaf plums, particularly those with a background of P. cerasifera, the European or Asian myrobalan or cherry plum. Nurserymen interested in getting a start of ‘Purple Pride’ plum or finding sources of this variety should contact Dawn Stover at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bartram, W. 1791. Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida. In Little, E. L. Checklist of United States Trees. USDA FS Washington, D.C.
Little, E. L. 1979. Checklist of United States Trees. USDA FS Washington, D.C.
Sargent, C. S. 1965. Manual of the trees of North America. 2nd Ed. Vol. II. Dover Pub., Inc. New York. 934p.