Hi can you help with this tree/hedge which is situated in Co Durham on the edge of a stream next to arable land.
The photos were taken during the backend of last year. I originally thought they were blackthorn because of their large thorns and the hedge seemed to have suckered.
I thought I would wait until spring to see if there would be blossom before the leaves came out, typical of blackthorn. However the leaves are out but no blossom, so any ideas please.
It looks like it is in the myrobalan-sloe-bullace-damson spectrum ( = P. cerasifera - P. spinosa - P. domestica var. insititia - P. domestica var. insititia).
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about these.
It would be wise to wait for fruit and/or blossom before trying to make a firm identification, IMO.
Longish discussion that exemplifies some of the vagueness - http://www.wildaboutbritain.co.uk/forums/wildflowers-plants-and-tree-forums/6759-like-know-more-about-bullace-what.html
Thanks for the prompt reply. Yes a difficult one and I will wait for blossom or fruit to arrive. Am I right in thinking that all the species that you have mentioned have spikes similar to blackthorn?
What ever it turns out to be it would have made an excellent stock proof barrier in the past.
Bullace is less spiny than sloe
(That also confuses things by giving the name 'green damson' as one of the alternatives for bullace).
That also leads us into the realm of variation, which is why I referred to a 'spectrum'.
It explains that there are three common forms of Bullace: White, Essex and Royal.
Also, the species can hybridize, complicating matters further.
Damsons come in several cultivars
That also gives useful guidance:
'Bullaces can usually be distinguished from damsons by their spherical shape, relatively smooth stones, and poorer flavour, and generally ripen up to a month later in the year than damsons.'
Damsons do not have spines. But damson hybrids might.
For instance, Prunus x fruticans (P. spinosa x domestica) has a few spines (according to 'Dorts' at http://www.wildaboutbritain.co.uk/forums/trees/92664-damson-bullace-sloe.html).
Another bit of guidance on ID, specifically re sloe
Myrobalan plums are usually spineless.
That also has a tips on telling myrobalan plums from sloes, such as tasting the fruit (myrobalan plum is sweet; sloe is sour).
Off topic since it does not cover the species in question here, but worth knowing: the NHM has a cherry ID key here
Keep us posted!
Good morning Mike
Unfortunately still not sure what this hedge is. During the year it has not produced any fruit and if my memory serves my right has not produced any in previous years. Other trees in the area have produced abundance this year. A bit of additional information the leaves measure 6cm x 2.5/2.8 cm with a short petiole 0.8cm and have toothed edges. The hedge has purple shoots.
I would be grateful for any further thought Kevin
Thanks for the update.
That leans us away from Prunus spinosa (which has smaller leaves).
The purpleness of the shoots could be misleading. It may lean us towards P. cerasifera var. nigra, but the degree of purple/green can be influenced by factors such as light level (eg. due to shading) and cultivar.
So we're not there yet, but perhaps a little closer.