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Damson

Edible Edible Autumn Autumn

Damsons are best cooked into jams, jellies, leathers or other puddings or used as a substitute for sloes when making sloe gin.

Hedgerow Type
Common Names Damson
Scientific Name Prunus domestica subsp insititia
Season Start Sep
Season End Oct
Please note that each and every hedgerow item you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.

Leaves

Dark green, shiny and oval shaped with a serrated edge.

Flowers

Clusters of small, white flowers with five petals.

Fruit

A dark blue/black fruit with a thin white bloom.

Bark

The trunk is usually fairly thin the bark is often covered in scars, moss and lichen.

Habitat

Mixed woodland, hedgerows, parks, gardens and along pavements.

Possible Confusion

Other members of the plum family.

Taste

Like a slightly sour plum busting with flavour.

Frequency

Common.

Collecting

Damson trees don’t usually grow too tall so they can be easy to reach or in some years the weight of the fruit bends the branches down to picking height for you.

Medicinal Uses

It is thought the name Damson originates from ‘plum of Damascus’ and it was brought over by the Romans but recent studies show that it might have evolved from a hybrid with the Sloe or Blackthorn and another member of the plum family.
Damsons were used in the past for many different ailments but modern medicine doesn’t seem very interested in them.

Other Facts

It was used as a dye in the 18th and 19th centuries.

COMMENTS

10 comments for Damson

  1. Rory O'Neill says:

    Hi,
    I think we have Damson trees in our garden.
    The trees are tall and spindly and don’t seem to want to grow out, just up.
    They are way over 10-15 feet tall as well, which is apparently the norm?
    Can I prune them to grow outwards?
    Perhaps they aren’t Damsons, but they look like it!

    1. Phil Leng says:

      Hi Rozzer, damsons in the garden, lucky man! Damsons do like to shoot up, and if they are damsons you aren’t going to do them any harm by giving trimming the spindly growth growing up.

  2. Elaine Moore says:

    We have planted a damson tree3/4years ago in our orchard and it never has any blossom or fruit can you please help
    I think it is a damson tree but it may be a plumb tree.The leaves are small but not shines,it has grown quite a lot in height and width and looks very healthy
    I look forward to your reply.
    Many thanks
    Elaine Moore

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      A lot of fruit trees can take several years to produce fruit.

  3. Christina McFarlane says:

    I am not convinced that a tree bought from Wyevale about 4 years ago is actually a damson. The tree is rather spindly, and has grown to about 12 feet tall. The leaves are small, and one of the 2 trunks has large spikes. Can you please help. I’m hoping it’s not a sloe.

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      The only way to tell is wait for the fruit. I like to eat sloes so it wouldn’t be a problem for me but they are not to most peoples tastes.

  4. Ricki says:

    There’s a tree in woodland near my house that I’ve always known as a damson, but some people say no because it has a few long, sharp spines on it’s branches. I know for certain it’s not a blackthorn. The fruit is larger than a sloe and tastes quite different, sharp and plummy. Makes great jam. If not a damson, what could it be?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Damson and Blackthorn trees can easily hybridise, you may have one of those but I have had damson trees with thorns.

  5. Oliver says:

    So I go picking in the woods near to me and it looks like damsons and sloe trees every where it’s great , but I can’t tell the difference the only way I seem to know is that the damson Trees seem to be covered in moss and bare around this time (September) whereas the sloes still have leaves on and have no moss ! Is this true ? Also are the damsons more blue in colour ? I mean I pick them both and mix I’m sure and I’m now in the process of making sloe gin is this a problem to mix ? Also I have made some sloe or damson mix syrup for my porridge it’s great t . Cheers

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It can be hard to know if what you have found are sloes, damsons or a hybrid of both. Sloes are blueberry sized, hybrids will be in-between and damsons are more plum sized. It doesn’t matter which you use for sloe/damson gin.

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