Chickasaw Plum

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Chickasaw Plum

Parent tree location: Wrightsborough, Georgia

Distance from MOSI to parent tree: 382 miles

 

A small hedge of Chickasaw Plum (Prunus angustifolia) borders one end of the grove and each spring these small trees put on a show of fragrant white blooms.

 

Chickasaw plum was among the first fruits domesticated for human use in North America. It was observed in groves deemed ‘ancient’ by the American born naturalist William Bartram who lived from 1739 to 1823. Bartram traveled the North American Southeast as part of a survey party in the late 1770’s. He noted the species of plants and animals he observed, land features that he encountered and also described the clothing and customs of the indigenous peoples he met.

 

In the trek between the now deserted Quaker settlement of Wrightsborough and the once lost Great Buffalo Lick Bartram’s party came across long deserted settlements of the indigenous Native Americans. Although most traces of the villages were gone orchards of planted trees remained. Among the species Bartram found were Shellbark Hickory, Honeylocust, Persimmon, Eastern Black Hickory, Red Mulberry, Beauty Berry and Chickasaw Plum. Bartram noted that these stands of fruit bearing trees were still in use by the local Creek peoples who collected and used the fruit in their day to day lives.

 

Each summer the Chickasaw Plum’s thorny branches give forth small golden plums that ripen to a lovely bright red hue. The tiny fruits are tart and sweet at the same time with a small pit in the center.

 

Did You Know?

200 years before John and William Bartram cataloged the plants and described the native people of Florida, Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda wrote a memoir of his 17 years spent among the native people. Shipwrecked at the age of 13, Fontaneda lived from 1549 until 1566 among the Calusa and other native tribes of Florida. After returning to Spain he wrote a memoir in 1575 that describes his time among the Calusa and gives the first written reference for the city of Tampa which he described as a large native village. Fontaneda wrote about the foods that were eaten, describes the shores.

Memoir of D d'Escalente Fontaneda respecting Florida: written in Spain, about the year 1575

 

Learn more about Chickasaw Plum, John Bartram and Native Americans in Florida

Chickasaw Plum: The Flavor of History

The Bartram Trail

The Travels of William Bartram: Florida

Exploring Florida: Native Americans

Botanical Explorers of Florida

 

Native American Garden

Tribes including Calusas and Seminoles called this part of Florida home for thousands of years, and this garden reflects native plants grown for food, medicine, and ceremonial use by these peoples, including the Chickasaw Plums themselves: Southern Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium darrowii), Ground Cherry (Physalis walteri), Bird Pepper (Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum), Coontie (Zamia pumila) and Cocoplum (Chrysobalanus icaco).

Click here for more information on plants currently found in the Native American Garden. 

 

Brittany Hofmann is a Human Resources professional located in Fort Myers, Florida, who enjoys all forms of artistic expression. The Chickasaw Plum piece showcases her love of history by drawing on the two-tone patterns found on the handwoven basketry of the Chickasaw and other southeastern tribes. From flower to fruit, this plant was interwoven into the lives of the people who relied upon it as a food source.

 

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