Wood species

Pink, purple, olive or grey iridescence make plum wood remarkable

Fruit trees are hard for us to see as a source of wood. We see them primarily as a source for jams, marmalades, juices and compotes. And with plum, I'm sure the first thought goes to jam. But fruit trees have a productive lifespan of 15-30 years, after which the amount of fruit decreases from year to year and the branches begin to wither. In orchards, trees that are beginning to wither are cut down and replaced with young trees capable of bearing rich fruit.

The other day I saw a plum wood bowl and was impressed by the multitude of colours. In the abundance of shades I could distinguish pink, purple, bright red, green. The unique colours make plum wood very popular with connoisseurs. However, being in small quantity it cannot be used on an industrial scale and is therefore less known. This is a good time to learn more about it.

plum wood
source: commons.wikipedia.org

PPrunus domestica (European plum or common plum) is one of the most widespread species of fruit trees in south-central and eastern Europe. Because of its fruit, it has been cultivated since Greek and Roman times, the latter spreading the plum throughout Europe. Prunus subspecies are found all over the world, with more than 400 known. In Europe, Romania is the largest plum grower.

The plum is grown in gardens and orchards in hilly and mountainous areas. It also grows wild, near forests, in which case the fruit is smaller and the branches more prickly. It prefers fertile, slightly acidic or neutral, loamy soils. Grows well in sun, sheltered from winds and frost.

The trunk can reach 8-12 m high, rarely 15 m, with a diameter of 3-4 m. The bark is dark brown and wrinkled as it ages. Branches are straight and branched in the crown. The white flowers, in clusters of 2-3, appear before the leaves, oval and slightly toothed. The fruits - plums - are smooth, round or oblong in shape, red, purple, yellow or green, depending on the variety, each fruit having a hard, flat stone.

More than 10 years ago, many orchards in Europe were affected by plum pox virus, a disease that cannot be treated. Many plum trees have been cut down and orchards restored. This was the time when more plum wood was on the market and its qualities better known, studied and appreciated.

plum wood
source: wood-database.com
Characteristics of plum wood

In cross-section the sapwood is well defined by the heartwood. The sapwood is light creamy-yellowish in colour and the heartwood is brown with pink, orange, purple, red, olive or grey stripes. The fibre is fine, resembling cherry woodwith a slight natural sheen. Defects such as twisted or irregular grain sometimes appear.

The annual rings are very well defined and of varying thicknesses, very visible due to the clustering of pores in the early wood area. The pores are small, fine, round, numerous and sometimes diagonally arranged. Occasionally in the pores are deposits of minerals and gums.

The average dry wood density varies between 0.705 and 0.795 kg/m³, depending on variety and origin. The average total longitudinal shrinkage is 0.3 %, the average total radial shrinkage is 4.8 %, the average total tangential shrinkage is 7.5 % and the average total volumetric shrinkage is 12.%.

Wood is at risk of cracking at drying. It should not be dried quickly at high temperatures and the fibre ends should be insulated with paraffin during drying. It is easily processed by hand or with specific tools and can be turned. During processing it gives off a slight pumpkin smell. It can be glued and finished without problems. When finished with clear varnish the natural lustre of the fibre is highlighted. It is not resistant to rotting and insect attack, so it is not recommended for outdoor use.

plum wood
source: elviodesign.com

As already mentioned, plum wood is not used industrially. The small size of the timber and the small quantity available on the market do not allow large-scale use. However, it is a wood that is highly prized by passionate carpenters who know how to enhance its beauty.

It is used to make blowing tools, knife handles and kitchen tools, to make jewellery, gift or tea boxes, turned bowls and some carved objects, to make small furniture or wooden jewellery. It is often used to make inlays and inlays.

Plum wood is also used to make small barrels for ageing plum brandy and plum jam. It is considered that such a brandy achieves balance and taste effect. Barrels are expensive and hard to find.

Plum wood burns well and has a higher calorific value than beech. It is used to make a special charcoal used in blacksmithing. It is also used for smoking meat. Careful still, because too intense a taste can become unpleasant.

I hope the above information helps. If you know anything else about plum wood or have worked with it, please share your experience with us. Leave your impressions below in the space provided. They will be very much appreciated, I assure you.

About the author

Mihaela Radu

Mihaela Radu is a chemical engineer but has a great passion for wood. She has been working in the field for more than 20 years, wood finishing being what defined her during this period. She gained experience working in a research institute, in her own company, as well as in a multinational. She wants to continuously share her experience with those who have the same passion - and more.

Add comment

Add a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Subscribe to newsletter