Saturday, 16 June 2018

Feral Greengage (Prunus domestica subsp. italica)

FERAL GREENGAGE  (Prunus domestica subsp. italica)
Family: Rosaceae
Ripe Greengage fruits.
(Hailsham, Downash, August 2008)

The Greengage is generally found near the sites of old gardens. The fruit is distinguished by its green skin, which is often somewhat yellowish or has a reddish-purple ‘blush’ on the side facing the sun, and invariably has a conspicuous bloom. It is also recognisable from other feral plums because of its spherical shape (see separate entry on Feral Plums). In comparison with Sloes it is much bigger and the flesh adheres to the stone, which is flat and wide and has a rough surface (see separate entry on Blackthorn). The branches are often quite spiny, though the spines are usually thin and flexible—unlike those of Sloes. Greengage fruits often grow in clusters on dwarf side branches like Bullaces (see separate entry on Bullaces), although they can also grow singly. They can be distinguished from Bullaces by their longer pedicils (c. 7-10 mm), by the consistently green or green-yellow colour of their fruits that are usually 3 cm or more in diameter—in contrast to those of Bullace that are mostly 2-3 cm (for examples of the range of fruit morphologies see Botu et al. 2012; Faust 2011: figure 1), and by their large and obtuse leaves[i]—unlike the relatively small, pointed leaves[ii] of Bullace.

Greengage fruits usually start to ripen only in mid or late September, well after most of the Bullaces have dropped and when the Hazels (Crataegus spp.) are already displaying their first flecks of autumn gold. At this stage they have a delicious mild, sweet-tangy taste, although the fruits on some bushes can be somewhat sour. The fruits can remain attached to the tree for a further month or two, by which time most of them are thoroughly wrinkled with a very sweet, sticky flesh, and skins that are somewhat translucent and deep pink-flushed apricot in colour. The late ripening of the fruits means that they plug the gap between the end of the Hawthorn-gathering season and the start of the Sloe harvest.

Greengage fruits harvested when ripe.
(Hailsham, Cuckoo Trail, September 2009)
Greengage fruits left on the tree
to be eaten as late as November.
(Hailsham, Cuckoo Trail, October 2008)


Botu, M., Tomić, L., Cvetković, M., Gjamovski, V., Jemrić, T., Lazović, B., Ognjanov, V., Pintea, M., Sevo, R., Achim, G., et al. 2012. Balkan Pomology: Plums. SEEDNet's WG for Fruit and Vitis, 2012: Ljubljana.

Faust, M. 2011. Origin and dissemination of plums. In Janick, J. (ed.), Origin and Dissemination of Prunus Crops: Peach, Cherry, Apricot, Plum, Almond. International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS), Leuven. pp. 139-186. [accessed: 06.04.18]

[i] Described as: “The simple leaves are alternate. They are elliptic, dentate and petiolate. [accessed: 12.04.18]
[ii] Described as: “The green, simple leaves are alternate. They are ovate, crenate and petiolate. [accessed: 12.04.18]

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