Beach Plum

Beach Plum

Prunus marítima Marshall


Also called seaside plum, sand plum, and graves plum, this is a member of the rose family (Rosaceae) ¹.  Usually a multi-stemmed shrub, beach plum can grow up to 18 feet ¹.  Its reddish-brown stems have conspicuous horizontal lenticels when young but becomes rough with age ¹.  The leaves are oval shaped and up to 2.75 inches long with finely serrated margins ¹.  They are dark green above and finely hairy on the lower surface ¹.  The flowers appear before leaf out in early spring and are white, one-half inch across and occur singly or in small groups ¹.  Individual plants are self sterile ².  The dark purple fruits may be up to one inch in diameter and mature in late summer ¹.

beach plum - Prunus maritima from Native Plant Trust

Flowers of beach plum.  4

Beach plum fruit and leaves.  K. WIxted, Maryland Biodiversity Project ³


Beach plum occurs along in sand dunes along the Atlantic coast from Canada to Virginia ¹.  It is intolerant of flooding and is naturally found in areas protected from salt spray such as mature sand dunes ¹.  It can be planted in other well drained, sunny areas ¹.  Beach plum is considered endangered in Maryland³ as well as in Maine and Pennsylvania ¹.  In Maryland it occurs from Anne Aruncel to St. Mary’s County on the Western Shore and in Kent and Worcester Counties on the Eastern Shore ³.

Distribution map of beach plum 5

Wildlife Importance

Beach plum thickets provide a nesting location for Glossy Ibis as well as food for numerous bird species ¹.  It is pollinated by bees and numerous other insects ¹.  It is a host plant to the Laurel Sphinx Moth ³.

Laurel Sphinx Moth larva.  B. Cammarata, Maryland Biodiversity Project 6

Adult Laurel Sphinx Moth.  M. Tillett, Maryland Biodiversity Project 6

Economic Importance

Beach plums are used commercially for producing jams and jellies ¹.  It is also used for horticultural purposes due to its ability to grow in poor nutrient, sandy soils ¹.  Beach plum can have high ornamental value ².


Beach plum is susceptible to several insect pests including the plum gouger, plum curculio and European red mite ².  The plumb gouger =can reduce the fruit yield by one half ².  Several fungus infections affect beach plum include plum pockets,  brown rot and lead spot ².

Interesting Facts

  • The flowers turn from white to a slight pink hue upon successful pollination ¹.
  • Beach plum can produce adventitious roots from stems that enable it to survival burial in sand dunes ¹.
  • Beach plum sets flowers eat year, but bears fruit only once in every three or four years ².


  1. USDA NRCS Plant Guide:  Beach Plum
  2. University of Maryland Extension:  The beach plum
  3. Maryland Biodiversity Project:  Beach plum
  4. Native Plant Trust:  Prunus maritima
  5. Greenfield Community College–Outdoor Learning Lab:  Prunus maritima

Contributed by J. Hull

Towson University Glen Arboretum

Towson University