If you are looking for an attractive native wildlife friendly plant that blooms early in the spring, Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) is a plant you should consider.
Normally the Chickasaw plum reaches a maximum height of only 15 feet (most I encounter are much shorter). In March-April, the plant produces a bounty of delicate, fragrant flowers well before the plant’s leaves burst forth.
Since it is an early bloomer, it is an important source of for pollinators such as butterflies. Some of the butterflies I find nectaring on the flowers are hairstreaks like the great purple hairstreak, and the eastern tiger swallowtail. However, other pollinators are also drawn to the woody plant’s pollen.
From May to July, the plant is laden with small drupes. These tasty plums can be range in color from red to yellow. If you want to eat your share of these sweet morsels, you had better do so early as they are also relished by a host of birds and mammals such as the red-headed woodpecker, quail, gray catbird, American robin, wood thrush, northern mockingbird, gray fox, raccoon, white-tailed deer and others.
Insectivorous birds feed the insects drawn to the large shrubs especially when they are in bloom.
If allowed to form a small thicket, birds such as catbirds, loggerhead shrikes, brown thrashers are others will nest and among this native plum’s thorny branches.
Butterfly enthusiasts will be happy to know that a number of butterflies such as the eastern tiger swallowtail, coral hairstreak, and spring azure lay their eggs on the Chickasaw plum.
Chickasaw plums do well in most soil types, are drought tolerant, and grow best in partial shade to full sun.
Should you decide to transplant this valuable native plant in your yard, set out a couple. This ensures cross-pollination will occur.
Also, be aware that Chickasaw plum produces suckers. This is great if you want to create a thicket. However, if you prefer to grow the plant as a single tree, simply cut down the suckers.