Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Indian Plum Wakening

One of the perks of western Oregon’s mild winters is the fact that many deciduous plants reawaken early in the year. One of my favorite deciduous shrubs is Indian plum, a west coast member of the rose family. Sarah and I have a three-foot tall sapling potted on our deck and its buds are beginning to open.

We purchased the plant last year from Portland Audubon’s Native Plant Sale when it was leafed-out but not flowering. Indian plum is a dioecious species, meaning individuals are male or female, never both. I am quite interested in these types of plants, because I have been researching cottonwoods, which are also dioecious, for several years.
This morning, I noticed a tiny inflorescence (left) and a set of leaves (right) emerging from the largest bud on our little Indian plum.

Since this will be the first set of flowers it produces, I do not know if they will be male or female and I feel like an expectant parent in the pre-ultrasound era! I am hoping it’s a girl, so I can try my hand at raising new saplings from the seeds, if the birds don't beat me to them.

Last year, I sketched the male and female flowers and recorded the gender of every flowering Indian plum I found to determine sex ratios in different locations. Of 162 flowering individuals, 125 were male and only 37 were female. I guess that means mine is most likely a male, too.

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