Prunus spinosa – Blackthorn
Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa, is distinctive in early spring with white flowers against black branches that do not yet have leaves. The plant typically suckers to form thorny thickets.
Later in the year Blackthorn carries purple fruit which give its alternative name of Sloe. Sloe gin is traditionally made from fruit picked in autumn after the first frost. Each berry is pricked – traditionally with a thorn from the bush- and a jar is filled half way with the berries. Gin is added along with sugar and further flavour comes from cloves or cinnamon. There is a well-known brand of cider is named after Blackthorn, but it is made from apples. Blackthorn is also traditionally used for making walking sticks.
The Cherry Plum or Myrobalan, Prunus cerasifera, starts to flower even earlier than Prunus spinosa but has some leaves on greener twigs. It is often used in hedges and there is a purple leaved form which is common in gardens. The fruits of the Cherry Plum are red.