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Klamath plum

Scientific Name:
Prunus subcordata
Family:
Native Name(s):
  1. Northern Paiute: tuyu (Kelly 1932); tuyu (Couture et al. 1986)
  2. Klamath: To-mö'-lö (Coville 1897)
Description:

Plant
This woody perennial shrub grows up to eight meters in height, although under favorable conditions it will grow to treelike proportions. Flowers are creamy white to pink, with five petals as is characteristic of the rose family. Leaves are 2.5-5 centimeters in length with a petiole 4-15 millimeters long, dark green in coloration and fine serrated. The fruit, 15-25 millimeters in size, is a small plum-like drupe which varies in appearance and may be red or yellow in color. Flowers appear in spring and are clustered in groups of 1-7. Seeds are ovoid in shape with a suture along one margin. Bulb may appear on top end, while bottom may be flattened. Seed coat walls are thick.

Starch granules
This is a starch deficient species. No starch granules were observed in flesh or seed.

Habitat:

This shrub be found from sea level to 6,000 feet in elevation in yellow pine forest communities.

Distribution:

Willamette Valley, Oregon to southern California.

Ethnography:

Several Native American groups utilized this species as a food source. The Klamath people collected fruits in the late summer and either ate them fresh or stored them. The Modoc also utilized the seeds of the fruit to produce their best black pigment. Seeds were first reduced to charcoal and then the material inside the seed was extracted for this purpose (Ray 1963).

As food
Northern Paiute: "Wild plums (tuyu) were gathered in an open-twine burden basket. They were pitted but not crushed and dried in the sun. The dried fruits were "pretty strong" before sugar was available. Wild plums are quite plentiful in the Warners and are still gathered in the late summer." (Kelly 1932:99)

Klamath: "The wild red plum of Oregon, abundant in openings of the yellow-pine forests throughout the reservation, but particularly at Modoc Point. By the aborigines it was eaten either dry or fresh, and among the white ranchers it is a common and favorite fruit for stewing. It resembles in flavor some of the sour cultivated plums, but has an additionally slightly bitter taste." (Coville 1897:99)

Distribution Map: