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Damson - Prunus domestic ssp. insititia

Damson - Prunus insititia

Main features

  • Found in woodland, hedgerows, gardens and parks

  • reaches 5 - 10m

  • Leaves are oval in shape, wrinkled, and slightly downy underneath

  • Leaves broaden slightly on the top half

  • Bark is dark coloured

  • Flowers are white in spring

  • Fruit is green or purple-black

  • Fruit appears in Autumn 

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Damson - Prunus domestica ssp. insititia

Edible tree - novice

Other common names: Damson Plum


Scientific name meaning: Literally meaning plum tree, Prunus is a Latin word. Domestica is from the Latin Domesticus, meaning belong to a household - a reference to cultivation of the species. The subspecies name, Insititia, is from the Latin Insitus, meaning grafted and in relation tot he fact this rootstock is often use for grafting

Season all year

Habitat - where will I find it? Damson can be found in hedgerows, woodlands, parks and gardens.

They were introduced to Britain by the Romans

Description - what does it look like? A low-growing tree reaching 5-10m, with thin branches. 

The bark is dark coloured.

Leaves are oval shaped, wrinkled and slightly downy underneath. They broaden slightly on the top half.

Flowers are white and followed in Autumn by yellow or dark purple fleshy fruits containing a single stone

Possible lookalikes Bullace, Blackthorn (sloes), Green Gage and Wild Plums could all be mistaken for Damson. Fortunately, all of the fruit of these is edible. They often hybridise and are difficult to tell apart when this happens.

Blackthorn, however, has a considerable number of thorns and the fruit is very astringent, even when ripe

Use as a food The fruit can be eaten raw when fully ripe, but can be quite acidic. It can be used to make Damson liqueurs.

Cooked, the fruit is used to make jams, jellies, syrups, ketchups and chutneys

Use in herbal medicine The roots have been used as a styptic, and flowers as a purgative

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Other uses Green dyes can be made from the leaves and fruit

Hazards The leaves and seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides and hydrogen cyanide. The seeds/stones, leaves, barks, stems and twigs should not be consumed

Importance to other species Provides a valuable nectar source for pollinators, and abundant food source for birds. The fruits provide food for the larvae of several moth species

Interesting facts Damson is often considered native to the UK but is suspected to have been introduced by the Romans

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!

Damson - Prunus insititia
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