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Prunus spinosa - L.
                 
Common Name Sloe - Blackthorn
Family Rosaceae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death. Avoid excessive intake and use recommended doses.
Habitats Hedgerows and woods, usually in sunny positions, on all soils except acid peats[9, 17].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to the Mediterranean, Siberia and Iran.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Summary
Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Mid spring. Form: Vase.

Prunus spinosa Sloe - Blackthorn


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Illustration_Prunus_spinosa1.jpg
Prunus spinosa Sloe - Blackthorn
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Llez
   
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of shrub
Prunus spinosa is a deciduous Shrub growing to 3 m (9ft 10in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4. It is in flower from Mar to April, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

Synonyms
Prunus moldavica. Kotov. Prunus stepposa. Kotov.

Habitats
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Hedge;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Flowers;  Fruit;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Tea.

Fruit - raw or cooked[2, 5, 7, 11, 12, 13, 34]. Exceedingly astringent, it is normally cooked but once the fruit has been frosted it loses some of its astringency and some people find they can enjoy it raw[183, K]. The fruit is more usually used in jellies, syrups, conserves etc and as a flavouring for sloe gin and other liqueurs[183]. Some fruits that we ate in December were fairly pleasant raw[K]. In France the unripe fruit is pickled like an olive[183]. The fruit is about 15mm in diameter and contains one large seed[200]. Seed - raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity. The leaves are used as a tea substitute[7, 183]. The dried fruits can be added to herbal teas[183]. The flowers are edible and can be crystallised or sugared[183].
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antidiarrhoeal;  Antiflatulent;  Antispasmodic;  Aperient;  Astringent;  Depurative;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  
Febrifuge;  Laxative;  Stomachic.

The flowers, bark, leaves and fruits are aperient, astringent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, laxative and stomachic[7, 9, 21]. An infusion of the flowers is used in the treatment of diarrhoea (especially for children), bladder and kidney disorders, stomach weakness et[9]. Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being[238]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Prunus spinosa Sloe - Blackthorn for inflammation of mouth and pharynx (see [302] for critics of commission E).
Other Uses
Cosmetic;  Dye;  Hedge;  Hedge;  Ink;  Pioneer;  Tannin;  Wood.

The bark is a good source of tannin[7]. It is used to make an ink[66]. The juice of unripe fruits is used as a laundry mark[66], it is almost indelible[115]. The pulped ripe fruit is used cosmetically in making astringent face-masks[7]. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[168]. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[168]. The bark, boiled in an alkali, produces a yellow dye[66]. The sloe is very resistant to maritime exposure and also suckers freely. It can be used as a hedge in exposed maritime positions. The hedge is stock-proof if it is well maintained[1, 29], though it is rather bare in the winter and, unless the hedge is rather wide, it is not a very good shelter at this time[K]. Because of its suckering habit, the plant is a natural pioneer species, invading cultivated fields and creating conditions conducive to the regeneration of woodland. Wood - very hard. Used for turnery, the teeth of rakes etc[1, 13, 46, 66]. Suitable branches are used for making walking sticks and are highly valued for this purpose because of their twisted and interesting shapes[7].
Cultivation details
Agroforestry Services: Living fence;  Agroforestry Services: Windbreak;  Industrial Crop: Oil;  Management: Standard;  Regional Crop.

Landscape Uses:Specimen. Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil[11]. Succeeds in all soils except very acid peats[186]. Succeeds in light shade but fruits better in a sunny position[11, 200]. Thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone[11]. Prefers some chalk in the soil but apt to become chlorotic if too much is present[1]. Thrives on chalk according to another report[182]. Plants are very resistant to maritime exposure[186]. An important food plant for the caterpillars of several species of butterfly[30], especially the larvae of the brown and black hairstreak butterflies[186]. A good bee plant. Plants are shallow-rooted and of a suckering habit, they can form dense impenetrable thickets which are ideal for nesting birds, especially nightingales[186]. Flowers are often damaged by late frosts[186]. Plants regenerate quickly after cutting or after fast moving forest fires, producing suckers from below ground level[186]. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[88, 200]. Special Features: All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Blooms are very showy.
Propagation
Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[200]. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[200]. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate[113]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame[11, 200]. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame. Layering in spring. Division of suckers during the dormant season. They can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.

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Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
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Expert comment
 
Author
L.
Botanical References
1117200
Links / References
For a list of references used on this page please go here
Readers comment
 
Elizabeth H.
Jane Walker Sat Jan 6 2007
Thank you for providing this information! I especially wanted the propagation info because part of my hedge has died and I cannot find a replacement specimen here in the USA. I am also pleased to see all the uses for this shrub. I planted the hedge for fun because my husband wants to re-enact "Utzi" the "Ice Man" who was found to have sloe in his pouch. My husband is amost all set for his Utzi historical impression now that he has his dried sloe berries.
Elizabeth H.
Gopal Pandey Tue Jan 22 2008
By the way it is used in homeopathy against bird flu.
Elizabeth H.
Eoin Kelleher Mon May 12 2008
Yesterday - I was pricked in the knuckle by a blackthorn spine and wow is it now sore / swollen. I think I removed all of the thorn shortly afterwards. Any suggestions, I can barely type?
Elizabeth H.
Christine Sun Sep 21 2008
Been out today to look for sloes to pick. 2 years ago the bushes were full, but this year and last, not a berry to be seen. The birds can't have got them all! Any answers as to where they might have disappeared to?
Elizabeth H.
David Nicholls Mon Sep 22 2008
It's possible late spring frosts killed the flowers so no fruit, bad bee weather at flowering/pollination time can cause this in close relatives of Sloe, there have been unprecedented problems with bee populations and health in some areas(caused by a combiation of human activities), I think America particularly. Another possibility is that many trees just don't bare heavily every year, they need a rest perhaps, I think this can be true of Prunus but am not sure.
Elizabeth H.
Mikail Badrzadeh Wed Feb 4 2009
I have been Collected many taxa belong to genus Prunus from forests of Ardabil province. Diversity of prunus spinosa and its close relative confused me(some photos is attached for you). Please, would you guide me for identifying them. With besr regards, Mikail Badrzadeh (teacher of plant taxonomy in university of Mohaghegh Ardabili)
Elizabeth H.
Auriol Penniceard Sat Dec 19 2009
A throw away remark in an ancient 'Good Housekeeping' cookery book says that on the continent sloes are made into jams. Following this suggestion, we find sloe jam truly fantastic in gravies, particularly with extensively grazed hill lamb. Use about one tablespoon per portion. For interesting flavour, this surpasses a chef style gravy made with a 'wine reduction'. Freezing the sloes first is convenient and may sweeten them. Cook the sloes until soft enough to remove the stones and puree the fruit. Make the jam with sugar equal to the weight of the pureed sloes (not the fruit with stones)
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Subject : Prunus spinosa  

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