American Plum, Prunus Americana Marsh.
DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS: Leaves simple, alternate, oval to oblong-oval, 2 to 4 inches long with petioles ½ to ¾ inch long, sharply toothed; petioles with or without glands; veins forming a network near the margins. Winter tqigs slender to moderate, often thorny, gray or red-brown; leaf scars small, half-round, with 3 bundle scars. Buds ovoid, 1/16 to ¼ (usually about 1/8) inch long, the terminal absent, often paired (side by side) above the lead scares; scales about 6, glabrous, red or reddish brown. Flowers perfect, regular, showy, in umbellike cluster of 2 to 5, appearing with or shortly before the leaves in spring; petals 5, white, nearly round. Fruit a drupe about 1 inch in diameter, red or light purple when ripe. Bark brown or dark gray, scaly.
SIMILAR TREES: Cherries have nonthorny twigs, terminal buds, flowers in racemes, and much smaller fruits. In winter, distinguished from other small, thorny trees by its lack of a terminal bud and its frequently paired lateral buds.
IOWA DISTRIBUTION: Native throughout the state.
Forest and Shade Trees of Iowa by Peter J. van der Linden and Donald R. Farrar