HISTORY . . .
The fruit of prunus maritima, or beach plum, is found growing naturally on low bushes in the sandy soils from Maine to Virginia. The early colonists used beach plums which they picked from these native plants each September when the fruits ripen to a deep purple or rarer yellow.
The first recorded mention of the beach plum was by explorer Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524, who noted them growing in southern New York state. He called them "damson trees".
There is also an early account written by Henry Hudson in 1609, who reported seeing an abundance of "blue plums" on the banks of the river that now bears his name.
The plant was first named "prunus maritima" by plant taxonomist Humphrey Marshall in 1785. With its prolific bloom and prized fruit it is now commonly known as the "beach plum". This long-lived species thrives in environments with salt, drought, and frequent disturbances where many other plants cannot survive.
Today the beach plum is popular in New England, particularly in the Cape Cod area, where locals and tourist pick the ripe fruit in early September. The fruit is then used in jams, jellies, brandies, and baked goods that are sold in local stores and roadside stands.
Here in New Jersey, there is a growing appreciation for the variety of uses for the beach plum. Native to our shores, this plant has many uses in horticulture, beach conservation and stabilization, as well as the variety of products made from its delicious fruit.
The Cape May County Beach Plum Association is a nonprofit 501(c)5 organization that was established in 2005. Since its inception, our membership has steadily increased. To date, members have planted over 10,000 beach plums in agricultural and environmental applications throughout southern New Jersey.