1. Family: Rosaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Prunus L.
      1. Prunus mume (Siebold) Siebold & Zucc.

        Highly appreciated and admired for its early (January to March in central and southern China) blossoms, Prunus mume has enjoyed great popularity in China and Japan for centuries. It is popular as a bonsai and a 'must' in every Japanese-style garden. The world famous Kairaku-en garden in Japan, for example, boasts 3,000 specimens including 100 different cultivars, which create a feast for the eye during the 'plum blossom' season in late February/early March. Due to its long history of cultivation and cultural significance, there are more than 300 known cultivars in China, which differ mainly in the colour of their flowers (which can be white, pink, red, purple or light green).

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    One of China and Japan's most popular plants, mume blossoms have long been a favourite subject in traditional East Asian art and poetry.

    Highly appreciated and admired for its early (January to March in central and southern China) blossoms, Prunus mume has enjoyed great popularity in China and Japan for centuries. It is popular as a bonsai and a 'must' in every Japanese-style garden. The world famous Kairaku-en garden in Japan, for example, boasts 3,000 specimens including 100 different cultivars, which create a feast for the eye during the 'plum blossom' season in late February/early March. Due to its long history of cultivation and cultural significance, there are more than 300 known cultivars in China, which differ mainly in the colour of their flowers (which can be white, pink, red, purple or light green).

    Although sometimes called 'Chinese plum', the closest relative of this species is the wild apricot (Prunus armeniaca). A synonym of Prunus mume is Armeniaca mume.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Prunus mume is native to China (western Sichuan and western Yunnan), Japan, Korea, north Laos and north Vietnam. The species is cultivated throughout most of China, particularly in areas south of the Chang Jiang.

    Description

    Mume normally grows as a small tree of up to 10 m, but sometimes also as a shrub. In winter and spring, when the trees are still leafless, the trees bear their strongly fragrant, white to pink flowers, which can reach 2-2.5 cm in diameter. The flowers are followed by fruits of 2-3 cm in diameter in May and June (or July and August in northern China).

    Uses

    Prunus mume is widely cultivated, both for its flowers and for its edible fruits (for which purpose it is sold as 'umeboshi plum' in oriental shops). The smoked, salted or otherwise preserved fruits are also used for medicinal purposes, for example in the treatment of bronchitis, chronic coughs and indigestion. The flowers are used to flavour teas.

    Known hazards

    Like plums, almonds or peaches,  Prunus mume  can produce compounds capable of generating hydrogen cyanide (the poison that gives almonds,  Prunus dulcis , their characteristic flavour). However, hydrogen cyanide is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm, but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    Description of seeds: Single seed enclosed in a stone, similar to the stone of an apricot.

    Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: None.

    Seed storage behaviour: Possibly orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive being dried without significantly reducing their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB).

    Cultivation

    This small tree can be propagated from seed or cuttings. When growing from seed, cold stratification (placing seeds in a cold environment to break seed dormancy) is required, as well as protection from mice. The germination rate is low.

    Cultivars should be propagated from softwood cuttings taken in early summer and kept misted. Prunus mume can also be grafted by T or chip budding on to P. cerasifera .

    Mume is long-lived amongst its relatives, but is susceptible to several pests and diseases including verticillium wilt (a soil-borne fungal disease), aphids, borers, scale insects, spider mites and honey fungus. Good soil fertilisation is recommended to keep it in good health, and hence increase its ability to survive pest attack.

    The soil should be well-drained and fertile and it is recommended that trees be planted in an open sunny position to produce a uniform crown. However, mume can do well trained against a sunny wall. It has a tendency to form multiple trunks but pruning and training can reduce them to a single one. Regular pruning is recommended to maximise flowering and fruiting.

    Mume at Kew

    Prunus mume can be seen growing at Wakehurst (half way down Farm Walk, 7 metres from the path).

    Specimens of mume can be seen in the Economic Botany Collection, one of the behind-the-scenes areas of Kew. These specimens include samples of fruits and wood, and are made available to researchers from around the world by appointment. 

    Distribution
    China, Japan, Laos, Vietnam
    Ecology
    Sparse forests, stream sides, on slopes along trails and in mountains, at altitudes of 1,700 to 3,100 m.
    Conservation
    Rated as Data Deficient (DD) by the IUCN Red List.
    [KSP]
    Use
    Ornamental, medicinal, food.

    Images

    Distribution

    Doubtfully present in:

    Vietnam

    Native to:

    China South-Central

    Introduced into:

    China North-Central, China Southeast, Hainan, Inner Mongolia, Japan, Korea, Manchuria, Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang

    Common Names

    English
    Mume

    Prunus mume (Siebold) Siebold & Zucc. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
    s.coll. [s.n.], Japan K000737003

    First published in Fl. Jap. 1: 29 (1836)

    Accepted by

    • Chang, C.S., Kim, H. & Chang, K.S. (2014). Provisional checklist of vascular plants for the Korea peninsula flora (KPF): 1-660. DESIGNPOST.
    • Pankhurst, R. in Pankhurst, R. (2007-2013). Rosaceae database [IOPI].
    • Vidal, J.E. (1968). Flore du Cambodge du Laos et du Viêt-Nam 6: 1-210. Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris.

    Not accepted by

    • Wu, Z. & Raven, P.H. (eds.) (2003). Flora of China 9: 1-494. Science Press (Beijing) & Missouri Botanical Garden Press (St. Louis). [Cited as Armeniaca mume.]

    Literature

    Kew Species Profiles
    • Bown, D. (1995). Encyclopaedia of Herbs and Their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London.
    • Gilman, E. & Watson, D. (1994). Prunus Mume Japanese Apricot. Fact Sheet ST-512. Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.

      Flora of China – Armeniaca mume.
    Kew Backbone Distributions
    • Chang, C.S., Kim, H. & Chang, K.S. (2014). Provisional checklist of vascular plants for the Korea peninsula flora (KPF): 1-660. DESIGNPOST.
    • Wu, Z. & Raven, P.H. (eds.) (2003). Flora of China 9: 1-494. Science Press (Beijing) & Missouri Botanical Garden Press (St. Louis).
    • Vidal, J.E. (1968). Flore du Cambodge du Laos et du Viêt-Nam 6: 1-210. Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris.

    Sources

    Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
    'The Herbarium Catalogue, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet http://www.kew.org/herbcat [accessed on Day Month Year]'. Please enter the date on which you consulted the system.
    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

    Kew Backbone Distributions
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2019. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2019. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0