The Info List - Prunus Spinosa

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spinosa (blackthorn, or sloe) is a species of flowering plant in the rose family Rosaceae. It is native to Europe, western Asia, and locally in northwest Africa.[2][3] It is also locally naturalised in New Zealand, Tasmania
and eastern North America.[3]


1 Description 2 Etymology

2.1 Sloe-eyed

3 Ecology 4 Uses 5 See also 6 References 7 Bibliography 8 External links


Plant in flower in early spring

spinosa is a large deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 5 metres (16 ft) tall, with blackish bark and dense, stiff, spiny branches. The leaves are oval, 2–4.5 centimetres (0.79–1.77 in) long and 1.2–2 centimetres (0.47–0.79 in) broad, with a serrated margin. The flowers are 1.5 centimetres (0.59 in) diameter, with five creamy-white petals; they are produced shortly before the leaves in early spring, and are hermaphroditic and insect-pollinated. The fruit, called a "sloe", is a drupe 10–12 millimetres (0.39–0.47 in) in diameter, black with a purple-blue waxy bloom, ripening in autumn and harvested – traditionally, at least in the UK – in October or November after the first frosts. Sloes are thin-fleshed, with a very strongly astringent flavour when fresh.[2] Prunus
spinosa is frequently confused with the related P. cerasifera (cherry plum), particularly in early spring when the latter starts flowering somewhat earlier than P. spinosa.[citation needed] They can be distinguished by flower colour, creamy white in P. spinosa, pure white in P. cerasifera. They can also be distinguished in winter by the more shrubby habit with stiffer, wider-angled branches of P. spinosa; in summer by the relatively narrower leaves of P. spinosa, more than twice as long as broad;[2][4] and in autumn by the colour of the fruit skin—purplish-black in P. spinosa and yellow or red in P. cerasifera. Prunus
spinosa has a tetraploid (2n=4x=32) set of chromosomes.[5] Etymology[edit]

Sloe flower, fruit, seed and leaves illustrated by Otto Wilhelm Thomé (1885)

The specific name spinosa is a Latin term indicating the pointed and thornlike spur shoots characteristic of this species. The common name "blackthorn" is due to the thorny nature of the shrub, and its very dark bark. The word commonly used for the fruit, "sloe" comes from Old English slāh. The same word is noted in Middle Low German, historically spoken in Lower Saxony, Middle Dutch sleuuwe or, contracted form, slē, from which come Modern Low German
Low German
words: slē, slī, and Modern Dutch slee, Old High German
Old High German
slēha", "slēwa, from which come Modern German Schlehe and Danish slåen. The names related to 'sloe' come from the Common Germanic root *slaiχwōn. Cf. West Slavic / Polish śliwa; plum of any species, including sloe śliwa tarnina—root present in other Slavic languages, e.g. Croatian/Serbian šljiva / шљива, and Russian слива. Sloe-eyed[edit] The expression "sloe-eyed" for a person with dark eyes comes from the fruit, and is first attested in A. J. Wilson's 1867 novel Vashti.[6] Ecology[edit] See also: List of Lepidoptera
that feed on Prunus

Pocket Plum
gall on Blackthorn, caused by the fungus Taphrina pruni

The foliage is sometimes eaten by the larvae of Lepidoptera, including the small eggar moth, emperor moth, willow beauty, white-pinion spotted, common emerald, November moth, pale November moth, mottled pug, green pug, brimstone moth, feathered thorn, brown-tail, yellow-tail, short-cloaked moth, lesser yellow underwing, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing, double square-spot, black and brown hairstreaks, hawthorn moth (Scythropia crataegella) and the case-bearer moth Coleophora anatipennella. Dead blackthorn wood provides food for the caterpillars of the concealer moth Esperia oliviella. The pocket plum gall of the fruit caused by the fungus Taphrina pruni produces an elongated and flattened gall, devoid of a stone. Uses[edit]

Global Plum
and sloe output in 2005

Grafted blackthorn tree; called a Husband and Wife tree

The shrub, with its savage thorns, is traditionally used in Britain and other parts of Northern Europe
to make a cattle-proof hedge.[7] The fruit is similar to a small damson or plum, suitable for preserves, but rather tart and astringent for eating, unless it is picked after the first few days of autumn frost. This effect can be reproduced by freezing harvested sloes.[citation needed] The juice is used in the manufacture of fake port wine, and used as an adulterant to impart roughness to genuine port.[8][9] In rural Britain a liqueur is made by infusing gin with sloes and sugar. Vodka
can also be infused with sloes.[10] In Navarre, Spain, a popular liqueur called pacharán is made with sloes. In France a similar liqueur called épine or épinette or troussepinette is made from the young shoots in spring. In Italy, the infusion of spirit with the fruits and sugar produces a liqueur called bargnolino (or sometimes prunella)—as well as in France where it is called "prunelle" or "veine d'épine noire". Wine made from fermented sloes is made in Britain, and in Germany
and other central European countries. Sloes can also be made into jam, chutney,[10] and used in fruit pies. Sloes preserved in vinegar are similar in taste to Japanese umeboshi. The juice of the fruits dyes linen a reddish colour that washes out to a durable pale blue.[7] Blackthorn makes an excellent fire wood that burns slowly with a good heat and little smoke.[11] The wood takes a fine polish and is used for tool handles and canes.[12] Straight blackthorn stems have traditionally been made into walking sticks or clubs (known in Ireland as a shillelagh).[13] In the British Army, blackthorn sticks are carried by commissioned officers of the Royal Irish Regiment; this is a tradition also in Irish regiments in some Commonwealth countries. The leaves resemble tea leaves, and were used as an adulterant of tea.[9][12] Shlomo Yitzhaki, a Talmudist
and Tanakh
commentator of the High Middle Ages, writes that the sap (or gum) of P. spinosa (which he refers to as the prunellier) was used as an ingredient in the making of some inks used for manuscripts.[14] The fruit stones have been found in Swiss lake dwellings.[9] Evidence of the early use of sloes by man is found in the famous case of a 5,300-year-old human mummy discovered in 1991 in the Ötztal Alps along the Austrian-Italian border (nick-named Ötzi): among the stomach contents were sloes.[15] A "sloe-thorn worm" used as fishing bait is mentioned in the 15th-century work, The Treatyse of Fishing with an Angle, by Juliana Berners.[16] The flowering of the blackthorn may have been associated with the ancient Celtic celebration of Imbolc.[17] See also[edit]

Damson Sloe gin


^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved 27 January 2014.  ^ a b c Rushforth 1999[page needed] ^ a b Den Virtuella Floran: Prunus
spinosa map ^ Vedel 1960[page needed] ^ Weinberger 1975, pp. 336–347. ^ "sloe-eyed". Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
(3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.) ^ a b Coats 1992, Prunus. ^  Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Sloe". New International Encyclopedia
New International Encyclopedia
(1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.  ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Sloe". Encyclopedia Americana.  ^ a b Kerri. "Sloe Gin
and Sloe Chutney". Dinner Diary. Retrieved 31 August 2017.  ^ "The Burning Properties of Wood" (PDF). The Scout Association. 1999. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-12-23.  ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Beach, Chandler B., ed. (1914). "Sloe". The New Student's Reference Work. Chicago: F. E. Compton and Co.  ^ Chouinard B.A., Maxime. "The stick is king: The Shillelagh Bata or the rediscovery of a living Irish martial tradition" (PDF). Retrieved 5 July 2011.  ^ Talmud
Bavli, Tractate Shabbat 23a ^ Tia Ghose (8 November 2012). " Mummy
Melodrama: Top 9 Secrets About Otzi the Iceman". LiveScience. Retrieved 10 November 2012.  (to locate, click ahead to part 4) ^ The Treatyse of Fishing with an Angle (attributed to Dame Juliana Berners in the 15th century) ^ Aveni 2004, p. 38.


Aveni, Anthony F (2004). The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays. Oxford University Press. p. 38. ISBN 0-19-517154-3.  Coats, Alice M (1992) [1964]. Garden Shrubs and Their Histories. New York: Simon & Schuster. Prunus. ISBN 0671747339.  Rushforth, K (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins. ISBN 0-00-220013-9. [page needed] Vedel, H; Lange, J (1960). Trees and Bushes in Wood and Hedgerow. London: Methuen & Co Ltd. ISBN 0413301605. [page needed] Weinberger, JH (1975). "Plums". In Janick, J; Moore, JN. Advances in Fruit
Breeding. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press. pp. 336–347. ISBN 0911198369. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Prunus

Cookipedia entry for Sloe Recipes

Taxon identifiers

Wd: Q129018 APDB: 152768 ARKive: prunus-spinosa BioLib: 39513 EoL: 632461 EPPO: PRNSN FNA: 200011162 FoC: 200011162 GBIF: 3023221 GRIN: 30116 iNaturalist: 55811 IPNI: 730297-1 ITIS: 24802 IUCN: 172194 NCBI: 114937 PalDat: Prunus_spinosa Plant List: rjp-43 PLANTS: PRSP Tropicos: 278