Prunus geniculata - Harper
Scrub Plum
Other Common Names: scrub plum
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Prunus geniculata Harper (TSN 24780)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.137792
Element Code: PDROS1C0H0
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Rose Family
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Rosales Rosaceae Prunus
Check this box to expand all report sections:
Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Prunus geniculata
Taxonomic Comments: Distinct species. Very distinct from other Florida plums.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 12Jun2001
Global Status Last Changed: 12Jun2001
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: A Florida endemic with 114 known occurrences, scattered along the Central Ridge. This species has low abundance and a restricted range due to development pressure in Central Florida.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Florida (S3)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LE: Listed endangered (21Jan1987)
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R4 - Southeast

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Prunus geniculata is a Florida endemic found on the Central Florida Ridge Highlands, Lake, Orange and Polk Counties. Also reported from DeSoto County (74-11), Smithsonian Institute and Osceola County.

Number of Occurrences: 21 - 80
Number of Occurrences Comments: 114 EORS AS OF JUNE 2001.

Population Size Comments: Sometimes common, but usually only a few individuals at a site.

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Habitat undergoing residential development and conversion to orange groves. The long term exclusion of fire allows a dense canopy to shade lower growing plants and inhibits their flowering, fruiting and seedling establishment.

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Short-term Trend Comments: The numbers of this plum seem to be declining because of rapid loss of its well drained habitat to urbanization and citrus plantings (Ward, 1979).

Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Responds vigorously to fire disturbance; cannot withstand soil disturbance of shade.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: Prunus geniculata is a Florida endemic found on the Central Florida Ridge Highlands, Lake, Orange and Polk Counties. Also reported from DeSoto County (74-11), Smithsonian Institute and Osceola County.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States FL

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
FL Highlands (12055), Lake (12069), Orange (12095), Osceola (12097), Polk (12105)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Oklawaha (03080102)+, Kissimmee (03090101)+, Western Okeechobee Inflow (03090103)+, Peace (03100101)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: A small, heavily, but irregularly branched shrub, springing from gnarled half-buried trunks, and growing to 2 m in height. Leaves are alternate, smooth, broadly elliptic to ovate, 1-1.5 cm long. Flowers, which appear before the leaves, have rose-red sepals and 5 white petals. (Based on Ward 1979, Kral 1983).
Technical Description: Compact, densely branched shrub 1 - 1.5 (2)m tall and at least as wide, trunks gnarled and half-buried, branches often lichen encrusted. Twigs zig-zag, lustrous reddish-brown, turning gray and cracking with age, inner bark reddish, somewhat sharp tipped lateral branches remain as short spurs. Leaves alternate, broadly elliptic to ovate, mostly 1 - 3 cm long, finely crenate-serrate, rather short petioled. Flowers on spurs in early spring before leaves, appearing sessile, usually solitary, regular, 5-parted, calyx rose red, petals white, 3 - 5 mm long, stamens numerous, anthers yellow. Fruit ovoid or ellipsoid drupe, 1.2 - 2.5 cm long, flesh thin and bitter, ripe in spring (Kral, 1983; Small, 1933; Ward, 1979).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Prunus geniculata is characterized by its low, rounded form; dense sharp tipped zig-zag branches; few, reduced leaves; and small, white, rosaceous flowers in early spring.
Ecology Comments: Scrub plum is a rare plant with a very narrow range and small, widely scattered populations. It frequently forms small colonies of several plants but may grow as solitary individuals (unpublished FNAI data).

It prefers fairly open areas without a dense canopy, but older plants are able to survive in dense shade (Schultz, pers. obs.).

Scrub plum's life history has not been reported in the literature. Many birds, rodents and other mammals are known to be fond of plum fruit and are probably responsible for the dissemination of the species (Van Dersal, 1938). Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) could also be a vector. Kral (1983) states that P. geniculata respond vigorously to fire disturbance and historically was probably fire maintained due to its presence in frequently burned sandhills.

Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest/Woodland, Sand/dune, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: SUMMARY: Deep, yellow sands of longleaf pine-turkey oak sandhill and white, excessively leached, wind-deposited soils of evergreen scrub oak-sand pine scrub. END SUMMARY. P. geniculata usually grows in the white sand scrub association with Ceratiola ericoides, Pinus clausa, Carya floridana, Sabal etonia, etc. This species sometimes grows in the yellow-sand sandhill association with Pinus palustris, Quercus laevis, and low scrub oaks. (Ward 1979, Kral 1983)
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Stewardship Overview: 1. Preservation of the best populations of Prunus geniculata known to exist in Florida.

2. Implement a program of different prescribed burning schedules at Tiger Creek Preserve.

3. Monitor results of 2.

4. Research the life history and propagation of P. geniculata.

5. Annually monitor known populations of Prunus geniculata by using field surveys and search for new populations.

Restoration Potential: Unknown. No young plants or seedlings were observed on 50 scrub sites searched in Polk and Highlands Cos. in 1983 (Schultz, FNAI data). A population of about 28 plants at Sun Ray Water Tower Scrub near Frostproof recovered from severe land clearing (probably bulldozing) and stood up to 1m tall in August, 1983 (Schultz, pers. obs.).
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Additional sites, especially at north and south end of range should be protected. Forty acres should be considered the minimum size for a scrub or sandhill preserve, but a smaller site with an exemplary population of P. geniculata could be considered (Cooper, FNAI, pers. comm.). The site should have a fairly open canopy and be large or secure enough to allow fire as a mangement tool.
Management Requirements: Active management is needed to maintain open areas favored by scrub plum. This could be accomplished by prescribed burning, thinning or cutting the overstory (Kral, 1983).

Most of Florida's natural fires occur from June to September when lightning from thunderstorms is most abundant (Abrahamson, 1984a). Ridge sandhills burn frequently (about every 3-5 years) with low intensity to remove undergrowth below the pine canopy (Abrahamson, 1984a; Duever, 1983). Dr. Ron Myers (ABS, pers. comm. on June 20, 1984 wrote that scrub naturally burned every 20-80 years in a high intensity canopy fire that opens areas for understory species. He recommended managing for the habitat system until more is learned about individual species' requirements. He suggested varying fires both temporally and spatially rather than sticking to one set fire frequency for a particular site, as natural burning occurred whenever sufficient fuel coincided with optimum weather conditions and an ignition source. Dr. Jack Stout (UCF, pers. comm. on July 31, 1984) wrote that he thought scrub historically burned in late spring or during the winter when conditions were most dry. He felt scrub would be hard to burn during the summer rainy season. He advised having many 25 to 100 acre units of scrub at different stages in which the various scrub plants and animals could populate and reproduce.

Proper schedules for burning scrub and sandhills have not yet been developed, and certain species may have their own specific preferred fire regime. In areas where burning is not feasible, thinning or cutting of the overstory could be tried.

Monitoring Requirements: Better population size information needed. Prunus needs to be monitored on and off Tiger Creek Preserve as its population seems to be on the decline.

Periodic field surveys of known habitats performed on a yearly basis.

Monitoring Programs: The FNAI should be contacted for further information. Gary Schultz searched for this species in Polk and Highlands Cos. for the FNAI in August and September, 1983. David Chasteen found one plant in an area adjacent to Tiger Creek Preserve in the spring of 1982.
Management Research Programs: Abrahamson (1984a) recently published some data on the results of fire on Lake Wales Ridge vegetation. His research at Archbold Biologic Station found that ridge species populations are revitalized by fire but do not require fire in the sense of maintaining a fire subclimax. He states that southern ridge sandhills appear to have burned much less frequently than sandhills of northern Florida, probably every 4 or more years. He was unsuccessful in burning sand pine or rosemary scrub for this study. Another article by Abrahamson (1984b) reports data on the recovery of dominant species of 4 major ridge vegetation associations but does not include any of the rare species. Also at ABS, Ann Johnson (1982) found that Ceratiola scrub can be difficult to burn because Ceratiola itself is not very flammable, and there is little fuel between the shrubs to carry a fire. Apparently, rosemary stands (or at least their centers) experience less frequent fires than the surrounding scrubby flatwoods. She concluded that Ceratiola appears to be adapted to a fire cycle of 30 to 40 years.

Other knowledgeable individuals on scrub and sandhill vegetation include Dr. Jack Stout, Dr. Ron Myers, and Don Richardson. Stout is working on scrub preservation strategies in east-central Florida. Myers is studying the ecological effects of fire on Florida's sand ridges. Richardson is currently a graduate student at USF in Tampa exploring the effects of allelopathy in the Florida scrub. (FNAI is the most informed on occurrences and distribution of rare plant species in Florida.)

Management Research Needs: Research needs to be done on the ideal habitat and management requirements of P. geniculata. The results of different prescribed burning schedules needs to be monitored. Also, its life history and propagation should be investigated.
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 03Aug1994
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: GARY SCHULTZ, FLFO; TNC-HO (1994), rev. L. Morse (2000)
Management Information Edition Date: 17Feb1986
Management Information Edition Author: GARY SCHULTZ, FLFO
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 17Feb1986
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): GARY SCHULTZ, FLFO

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Abrahamson, W.G. 1984a. Post-fire recovery of Florida Lake Wales Ridge vegetation. American J. Botany 71(1): 9-21.

  • Abrahamson, W.G. 1984b. Species response to fire on the Florida Lake Wales Ridge. American J. Botany 71(1): 35-43.

  • Duever, L.C. 1983. Natural communities of Florida's inland sand ridges. Palmetto 3(3): 1-3.

  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2014b. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Vol. 9. Magnoliophyta: Picramniaceae to Rosaceae. Oxford University Press, New York. xxiv + 713 pp.

  • Johnson, A.F. 1982. Some demographic characteristics of the Florida rosemary, Ceratiola ericoides. American Midland Naturalist 108:170-174.


  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kral, R. 1983c. A report on some rare, threatened, or endangered forest-related vascular plants of the South. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Forest Service Technical Publication R8-TP2, Athens, GA. 1305 pp.


  • Radford, A.E., H.E. Ahles, and C.R. Bell. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Univ. North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC. 1183 pp.

  • Small, J.K. 1933. Manual of the southeastern flora. Two volumes. Hafner Publishing Company, New York.

  • Taylor, W.K. 1992. The guide to Florida wildflowers. Taylor Publishing, Dallas, Texas. 320 pp.

  • Taylor, Walter Kingsley. 1992. The Guide to Florida Wildflowers. Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas, Texas. 320 pp.

  • Van Dersal, W. R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States: their erosion-control and wildlife values. USDA Misc. Publ. 303.



  • Ward, D.B., ed. 1979. Rare and endangered biota of Florida. Vol. 5: Plants. Univ. Presses of Florida, Gainesville.

  • Wunderlin, R.P. 1982. Guide to the vascular plants of central Florida. Univ. Presses Florida, Gainesville. 472 pp.

Use Guidelines & Citation

Use Guidelines and Citation

The Small Print: Trademark, Copyright, Citation Guidelines, Restrictions on Use, and Information Disclaimer.

Note: All species and ecological community data presented in NatureServe Explorer at were updated to be current with NatureServe's central databases as of March 2019.
Note: This report was printed on

Trademark Notice: "NatureServe", NatureServe Explorer, The NatureServe logo, and all other names of NatureServe programs referenced herein are trademarks of NatureServe. Any other product or company names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.

Copyright Notice: Copyright © 2019 NatureServe, 2511 Richmond (Jefferson Davis) Highway, Suite 930, Arlington, VA 22202, U.S.A. All Rights Reserved. Each document delivered from this server or web site may contain other proprietary notices and copyright information relating to that document. The following citation should be used in any published materials which reference the web site.

Citation for data on website including State Distribution, Watershed, and Reptile Range maps:
NatureServe. 2019. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Accessed:

Citation for Bird Range Maps of North America:
Ridgely, R.S., T.F. Allnutt, T. Brooks, D.K. McNicol, D.W. Mehlman, B.E. Young, and J.R. Zook. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Birds of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Bird Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE."

Citation for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
Patterson, B.D., G. Ceballos, W. Sechrest, M.F. Tognelli, T. Brooks, L. Luna, P. Ortega, I. Salazar, and B.E. Young. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Mammals of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy-Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International-CABS, World Wildlife Fund-US, and Environment Canada-WILDSPACE."

Citation for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2004. Global Amphibian Assessment. IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe, Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
"Data developed as part of the Global Amphibian Assessment and provided by IUCN-World Conservation Union, Conservation International and NatureServe."

NOTE: Full metadata for the Bird Range Maps of North America is available at:

Full metadata for the Mammal Range Maps of North America is available at:

Restrictions on Use: Permission to use, copy and distribute documents delivered from this server is hereby granted under the following conditions:
  1. The above copyright notice must appear in all copies;
  2. Any use of the documents available from this server must be for informational purposes only and in no instance for commercial purposes;
  3. Some data may be downloaded to files and altered in format for analytical purposes, however the data should still be referenced using the citation above;
  4. No graphics available from this server can be used, copied or distributed separate from the accompanying text. Any rights not expressly granted herein are reserved by NatureServe. Nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring by implication, estoppel, or otherwise any license or right under any trademark of NatureServe. No trademark owned by NatureServe may be used in advertising or promotion pertaining to the distribution of documents delivered from this server without specific advance permission from NatureServe. Except as expressly provided above, nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring any license or right under any NatureServe copyright.
Information Warranty Disclaimer: All documents and related graphics provided by this server and any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server are provided "as is" without warranty as to the currentness, completeness, or accuracy of any specific data. NatureServe hereby disclaims all warranties and conditions with regard to any documents provided by this server or any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server, including but not limited to all implied warranties and conditions of merchantibility, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. NatureServe makes no representations about the suitability of the information delivered from this server or any other documents that are referenced to or linked to this server. In no event shall NatureServe be liable for any special, indirect, incidental, consequential damages, or for damages of any kind arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information contained in any documents provided by this server or in any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server, under any theory of liability used. NatureServe may update or make changes to the documents provided by this server at any time without notice; however, NatureServe makes no commitment to update the information contained herein. Since the data in the central databases are continually being updated, it is advisable to refresh data retrieved at least once a year after its receipt. The data provided is for planning, assessment, and informational purposes. Site specific projects or activities should be reviewed for potential environmental impacts with appropriate regulatory agencies. If ground-disturbing activities are proposed on a site, the appropriate state natural heritage program(s) or conservation data center can be contacted for a site-specific review of the project area (see Visit Local Programs).

Feedback Request: NatureServe encourages users to let us know of any errors or significant omissions that you find in the data through (see Contact Us). Your comments will be very valuable in improving the overall quality of our databases for the benefit of all users.