Jade Dish Plum: Varieties, Characteristics, and Distribution

TheJade Dish Plum is a perennial shrub of the rose family Prunus genus, cultivated throughout China, but most commonly found in provinces south of the Yangtze River Basin. Its blossoms are disc-shaped with double petalled flowers, pure white as jade, accompanied by a faint green calyx sprinkled with purple shades. When in bloom, the flowers cover the tree like a flurry of snow, presenting a tranquil and lasting beauty. The Jade Dish Plum generally blooms late, with peak flowering periods from mid-February to early March. Currently, there are approximately 30 varieties, of which the Suhaitai, planted in 1930, is the most famous, typically blooming from late February to early March.

Common Varieties

The variety of flower plum has greatly diversified due to long-term cultivation. According to the research of Professor Chen Junyu, they fall into four categories:

Upright Plum (var. mume) – The branches are upright or sprawled, divided into the following seven types based on flower shape and color:

Upright Plum (var. mume)

Latin Name

Characteristics

Jiangmei Type

f. simpliciflora T. Y. Chen

Disc-shaped flowers, single petalled, in pure white, water pink, flesh color, or peach red.

Gongfen Type

f. alphandii (Carr.)Rehd.

Disc-shaped flowers, semi-double to double petalled, in pink.

Dahong Type

f. rubriflora T. Y. Chen

Similar to Gongfen type but with vibrant red flowers, blooms profusely with a strong sweet fragrance.

Zhushe Type

f. purpurea (Makino) T. Y. Chen

Disc-shaped flowers, single, semi-double, or double petalled, in purple-red.

Jade Dish Plum Type

f. albo-plena (Bailey) Rehd.

Disc-shaped flowers, double petalled, in white; with a purple calyx.

Lu’e Type

f. viridicalyx (Makino) T. Y. Chen

Disc-shaped flowers, single to semi-double petalled, in white; with a green calyx.

Sajin Type

f. versicolor T. Y. Chen et H. H. Lu

Disc-shaped flowers, single to double petalled, with flowers of near-white, pink, red-striped white, or red-spotted white all blooming on the same tree, quite unique.

Pendulous Plum (var. pendula Sieb.) – The branches hang down, forming a unique umbrella-shaped tree, divided into the following six types:

Pendulous Plum (var. pendula Sieb.)

Name and Characteristics

Danfen Zhoushui Type (f. simplex T. Y. Chen)

Disc-shaped flowers, single petalled, in pink or white. There are 3 known varieties, such as Danfen Zhoushui, Danban Zhoushui, etc.

Shuangfen Zhoushui Type (f. modesta T. Y. Chen)

Disc-shaped flowers, semi-double or double petalled, in pink. There are 2 varieties, i.e., Lingyan and Dongyanghong Zhoushui.

Guhong Zhoushui Type (f. atropurpurea T. Y. Chen)

Disc-shaped flowers, single petalled, in deep purple-red, such as Guhong Zhoushui.

Canxue Zhoushui Type (f. albiflora T. Y. Chen)

Disc-shaped flowers, semi-double petalled, in white, such as Canxue Zhoushui.

Baibi Zhoushui Type (f. viridiflora T. Y. Chen)

Disc-shaped flowers, single or semi-double petalled, in white; with a green calyx, such as Shuangbi Zhoushui, Danbi Zhoushui.

Wubao Zhoushui Type (f. marmorata T. Y. Chen)

On the same tree, flowers bloom in near white, pink, and red stripes or spots on white, such as Wubao Zhoushui.

Longyou Mei Type (var. tortuosa T. Y. Chen et H. H. Lu) – The branches naturally twist like a dragon; disc-shaped flowers, semi-double petalled, in white, such as Longyou Mei.

Apricot Plum Type (var. bungo Makino) – The branches and leaves resemble those of the apricot; semi-double petalled flowers, in pink, such as Apricot Plum, Yang Mei, Song Chun, etc. This variety flowers late, has strong cold resistance, and is likely a natural hybrid of the apricot and plum.

Growth and Distribution

Cultivated throughout China, but most commonly found in provinces south of the Yangtze River Basin, with a few varieties in northern Jiangsu and southern Henan.

Certain varieties have been successfully introduced into North China. Also found in Japan and Korea.

Morphology and Features

Plum (original variant)

A small tree or rarely a shrub, 4-10 meters in height; the bark is light gray or greenish, smooth; the twigs are green, smooth, and hairless.

The leaves are ovate or elliptical, 4-8 cm long, 2.5-5 cm wide, with a tail tip, a broad wedge to round base, often with small sharp serrated edges, gray-green in color, short soft hair on both sides when young, gradually shedding as they mature, or only having short soft hair in the vein axils below; the leaf stalk is 1-2 cm long, hairy when young, falling off when old, often with glandular bodies.

The flowers are solitary or sometimes 2 in 1 bud, 2-2.5 cm in diameter, strongly fragrant, blooming before the leaves; the flower stalk is short, about 1-3 mm long, often hairless; the flower calyx is usually reddish-brown, but some varieties have a green or greenish-purple calyx; the calyx tube is wide bell-shaped, hairless or sometimes with short soft hair; the calyx lobes are ovate or nearly round, with a rounded tip; the petals are ovate, white to pink; the stamens are short or slightly longer than the petals; the ovary is densely covered with soft hair, the pistil is short or slightly longer than the stamens.

The fruit is almost spherical, 2-3 cm in diameter, yellow or greenish-white, covered with soft hair, sour in taste; the flesh sticks to the stone; the stone is elliptical, with a rounded top with a small pointed tip, the base narrows into a wedge, the sides are slightly flat, the ventral ridge is slightly blunt, there are obvious longitudinal grooves on the ventral surface and back ridge, and the surface has honeycomb holes.

The flowering period is in winter and spring, and the fruiting period is from May to June (in North China the fruiting period is extended to July-August). 2n=16,24.

Jade Dish Plum Type (f. albo-plena (Bailey) Rehd.)

Disc-shaped flowers, double petalled, in white; with a purple calyx. There are 30 varieties, such as Jade Dish Plum, Fendie, Zidibai, etc.

Value and Other Information

The plum originated in southern China and has been cultivated for over three thousand years. It has many varieties for ornamental and fruit tree purposes.

Many types not only grow in open ground for viewing, but can also be grown as pot plants and made into plum piles. The fresh flowers can be extracted for fragrance, and the flowers, leaves, roots, and seeds can all be used for medicinal purposes.

The fruit can be eaten, pickled, or smoked into black plums for medicinal use, which has the effect of relieving cough, diarrhea, promoting salivation, and quenching thirst. Plums can also resist root-knot nematode damage and can be used as rootstock for stone fruit trees.

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