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Prunus spinosa
Fruit
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Subgenus: Prunus
Section: Prunus
Species: P. spinosa
Binomial name
Prunus spinosa
L.

Prunus spinosa (blackthorn or sloe) is a species of Prunus native to Europe, western Asia, and locally in northwest Africa.[1][2]

Contents

Etymology

The word "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 words: "slē", "slī", and Modern Dutch "slee"), Old High German "slēha", "slēwa" (from which come Modern German "schlehe" and West Slavic / Polish "śliwa" plum of any species, including sloe "śliwa tarnina" - root present in other Slavic languages). All these come from Common Germanic root *slaiχwōn.

Growth

Plant in flower in early spring

It is a deciduous large shrub or small tree growing to 5 m tall, with blackish bark and dense, stiff, spiny branches. The leaves are oval, 2–4.5 cm long and 1.2–2 cm broad, with a serrated margin. The flowers are 1.5 cm diameter, with five slightly 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 mm in diameter, black with a pale 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.[1]

Characteristics

It is frequently confused with the related cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera), particularly in early spring when the latter starts flowering somewhat earlier than P. spinosa. 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;[1][3] and in autumn by the colour of the fruit skin — purplish-black in P. spinosa and yellow or red in P. cerasifera.

Ecology

The foliage is sometimes eaten by the larvae of Lepidoptera including Emperor Moth, 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 and the Black and Brown Hairstreaks.

Cultivation and uses

Grafted blackthorn tree; called a Husband and Wife tree

The fruit is similar to a small damson or plum, suitable for preserves, but rather tart and astringent for eating, unless deeply frozen, as is practised in eastern Europe. In rural Britain so-called sloe gin is made from them, though this is not a true gin but an infusion of vodka, gin, or neutral spirits with the fruit to produce a liqueur. In Navarre, Spain, a popular liqueur called patxaran is made with sloes. Sloes can also be made into jam and, if preserved in vinegar, are similar in taste to Japanese umeboshi.

Plum and sloe output in 2005

It is extensively planted for hedging and for cover for game birds. The small thorns of the plant are relatively common causes of minor wounds in livestock, and these wounds often fester until the thorn is expelled or removed.

Straight blackthorn stems have traditionally been made into a walking stick or club (known in Ireland as a shillelagh). In the British Army, blackthorn sticks are carried by commissioned officers of the Royal Irish Regiment; the tradition also occurs in Irish regiments in some Commonwealth countries.

Shlomo Yitzhaki, a Talmudist and Tanakh commentator of the High Middle Ages, writes that the sap (or gum) of the Prunus spinosa (or what he refers to as the Prunellier) was used as an ingredient in the making of some inks used for manuscripts.[4]

The species is locally naturalised in New Zealand and eastern North America.[2]

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.[5]

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]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins ISBN 0-00-220013-9.
  2. ^ a b Den Virtuella Floran: Prunus spinosa map
  3. ^ Vedel, H., & Lange, J. (1960). Trees and Bushes in Wood and Hedgerow. Metheun & Co. Ltd., London.
  4. ^ Talmud Bavli, Tractate Shabbat 23a
  5. ^ The Treatyse of Fishing with an Angle (attributed to Dame Juliana Berners in the 15th century)
  6. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
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Wikispecies

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Prunus spinosa

Taxonavigation

Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids I
Ordo: Rosales
Familia: Rosaceae
Subfamilia: Prunoideae
Genus: Prunus
Subgenus: P. subg. Prunus
Sectio: P. sect. Prunus
Species: Prunus spinosa

Name

Prunus spinosa L.

References

  • Species Plantarum 1:475. 1753
  • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. [1]

Vernacular names

Eesti: Laukapuu
English: Blackthorn
Galego: Abruñeiro
Nederlands: Sleedoorn
日本語: スピノサスモモ
Svenska: Slån
Türkçe: Çakal eriği
Українська: Тернина
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Prunus spinosa on Wikimedia Commons.

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