Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Blackthorn, Sloe
Prunus spinosa

Family: Rosaceae (ro-ZAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Prunus (PROO-nus) (Info)
Species: spinosa (spy-NO-suh) (Info)

12 members have or want this plant for trade.


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)
10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)
12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)
15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

15-18 in. (38-45 cm)
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction
Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From hardwood cuttings
From hardwood heel cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
By stooling or mound layering

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing

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to view:

By philomel
Thumbnail #1 of Prunus spinosa by philomel

By philomel
Thumbnail #2 of Prunus spinosa by philomel

By kennedyh
Thumbnail #3 of Prunus spinosa by kennedyh

By kennedyh
Thumbnail #4 of Prunus spinosa by kennedyh

By Todd_Boland
Thumbnail #5 of Prunus spinosa by Todd_Boland

By kennedyh
Thumbnail #6 of Prunus spinosa by kennedyh

By growin
Thumbnail #7 of Prunus spinosa by growin

There are a total of 15 photos.
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2 positives
1 neutral
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive DMersh On Apr 3, 2011, DMersh from Perth
United Kingdom (Zone 7b) wrote:

Similar to Hawthorn and often grows alongside it; the two trees have very similar flowers but blackthorn flowers about 6-7 weeks before hawthorn and has bluish black berries, hawthorn has red berries. The two can be hard to tell apart in winter when berries and leaves are gone.
Makes a very striking sight when in flower as most other trees are still bare, also because the flowers open before the leaves. Grows to about 15 feet, can reproduce by suckering as well as seeds spread by birds.

Positive Mandrak On Dec 16, 2009, Mandrak from Bihac
Bosnia-Herzegovina wrote:

The fruit even now in December there are here in Bosnia (but the snow has fallen and can not pick them any more). I like to eat it fresh, and it is possible to make juice and jam from it. I think that is very healthy.

Negative mark1 On Feb 21, 2003, mark1 wrote:

I am a forester based in the UK - some of our work includes the clearance of shrubs such as blackthorn - I have experienced skin infection from handling the thorns of the plant - eg when pricked by the thorns, the area can get extremely inflamed and be very painful for at least a couple of days. I have been advised by my pharmacy to use Magnesium Sulphate Paste to bring down the swelling. I am not sure if this problem is unique to me but would advise others to handle the plant with care.

Neutral philomel On Sep 28, 2002, philomel from Castelnau RB Pyrenes
France (Zone 8a) wrote:

This is a suckering shrub/small tree native to the UK and Northern Europe. It is much used as a hedging plant, forming an impenetrable thicket, further protected by the sharp spiny thorns.

There is much folklore attached to this plant, the wood of which is used to make the irish shillelagh. The fruits are called sloes and are traditionally used to make sloe gin.

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