Plum-Tree, or Primus, L,. genus of plants, comprising fifteen, but according to Bechstein, thirty species ; five of which are reared in Britain, namely :
1. The Padus, or Bird-cherry; and,
2. The Cerasus, or Common Wild Cherry; see vol. i. pp. 509—10.
3. The insititita, Bullace-Plum, or Black Bullace-tree, which grows in hedges, and flowers in the month of April.—The fruit of this species is of an austere, but pleasant sub-acid taste, especially when it has become mellow by the frost. It is of a dark-blue colour (there is also a variety which is white) ; of a globular shape ; double the size of common sloes ; and next kin to plums. In Germany, it is preserved in vinegar and spice ; though the Bullace-plum may also be profitably converted into brandy.— The wood of this tree is beautifully veined, and highly prized by turners.—The bark of the roots and branches has styptic properties ; and Dr. Withering observes, that an infusion of the flowers, sweetened with sugar, is a mild purgative, well adapted for children.
4. The spinosa. See Sloe-tree.
5. The domestica, or Common Plum-tree ; which abounds in hedges, where it is supposed to be propagated from stones planted by birds. It delights in lofty situations, and dues not prevent the grass from growing beneath its shade.—Its bark imparts a yellow dye.
Numerous varieties of this species are raised by gardeners, of which the following are the most remarkable :—L.Lhelord's plum; and 2. the Ladies' Plum; see.p. 297.—3. The Red Perdrigon; see p. 298.—4. The Hungarian, or Blue-egg-plum; see p. 306.— 5. The St. Johns-plum.—6. The Royal; and 7. the Green, or White Indian-plum; see p. 311 of this volume. To these may be added, 8. The St. Julian, and—9. The Magnum-plums; which, being very hardy, are chiefly employed as stocks for raising peaches.—10. The Jean Hative, or White Primor-dian.—11. The Early Black Da-mash, or Morocco; which are principally valued on account of their early maturation.—12. The Great Violet Damask of Tours, that attains a considerable size : externally, it is of a dark-red colour; its flesh is yellow, and possesses a rich saccharine taste.—13. The Fothering-ham, or Sheen-plum ; a large fruit, which is equal to any of the numerous varieties, both for beauty, and delicacy of flavour.—14. The White Perdrigon is in great esteem: it maybe used either for sweet-meats, or eaten in a fresh state.—15. The Violet is a very delicate fruit, but is seldom produced in abundance.— 16. Imperial, or Red Magnum ; a large, long plum, of an austere taste ; is excellent for sweet-meats; and the tree is very fruitful.—17. The Bonum Magnum, White Holland, or Mogul Plum, is very plentiful ; and, when ripened against the wall, acquires a good taste : it may be easily preserved.—18. The Mirabel, is a small yellow plum, with a saccharine juice, and in great abundance.-l9. The Apricot; a large, yellow, round plum, the pulp of which is firm, sweet, and will be much improved by ripening against a wall—20. Roch-courlon, or Red Diaper, one of the most excellent varieties of the plum-kind ; it is of a large size a red colour; and has a sweet taste.—• 21 .The Gage, is reputed to be equal in flavour, beauty, and in other respects, to the best plums that are cultivated: it is very productive, whether it be planted against a wall, or in an open exposure.— 22. The St. Catharine, is principally calculated for sweet-meats. It produces abundantly, but requires to be reared against a wall, by which means its fruit is greatly improved, both in size and taste.—23. The Spanish- Red Damask ; a round plum of a middle size : it thrives best under the shelter of a wall ; has a red tinge, and abounds with rich juice.—-24. The Muscle Plum, is one of the most common kinds ; and of an indifferent flavour.—25 The White Pear-Plum, ripens at a late period : it is chiefly cultivated for stocks, on which tender peaches may be budded.
All the different varieties of plums have originally been raised from the stones, and afterwards grafted or budded on plum-stocks. The best for this purpose is the Sloe-tree, or Black-thorn ; and, as the operation varies but little from that already described under the heads of Engrafting and Inoculation, we refer the reader to those articles.
Beside their utility as a culinary fruit, plums possess valuable medicinal properties. In a dried state, they are called Prunes, and are eminently useful in cases of costive-ness accompanied by irritation, that would be aggravated by powerful laxatives ; but they ought not to be eaten after long fasting, or for supper, unless mixed with other aliment ; as they are apt to produce flatulency. With this exception, they suit almost every constitution, and produce both cooling and ape rient effects ; but, when prunes do not operate sufficiently, their power may be increased by combining them with a small portion of rhubarb, or cream of tartar.
If plums be eaten in a fresh state, or before they are perfectly ripe, and in immoderate quantities, they induce colics, looseness, and similar affections in the stomach and intestines. The larger kinds, especially, ought to be used seldom, and with great precaution, being more dangerous than the smaller plums ; because the former are rarely permitted to attain to maturity.