Prunus spinosa L.

blackthorn, sloe
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Prunus spinosa
Elena Torres & Santiago Moreno
Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

Prunus spinosa: Appearance of the shrub in full bloom

Appearance of the shrub in full bloomBranch with elliptic or obovate leaves with finely serrate margins, some of which still have stipules; the branchlet on the left is still green but will turn into a hard, sharp thorn when it becomes lignifiedBranch with proteranthous flowers 1-1.5 cm in diam. with short peduncles (< 1 cm)Branch with 2 small immature glaucous drupes (dark blue, almost black when they mature)

Prunus: Ancient Latin name for plum tree

spinosus, -a, -um: thorny, referring to the thorns that the stems often bear


Habit: Deciduous, ramose, intricate shrub 1-2(6) m tall with lateral branchlets often ending in a thorn.

Leaves: alternate, deciduous, 2-5 cm × 1-2 cm, simple, with short petioles and caducous linear stipules; blade obovate, elliptic or lanceolate, with serrate or crenate margins and ± pubescent, especially above.

Flowers: proteranthous, hermaphrodite, actinomorphic, pentamerous, perigynous, 1-1.5 cm in diam., solitary or clustered in small groups of 2-3, with a cup-like hypanthium (receptacle), free sepals, white petals 4-10 mm long, obovate to suborbicular, and numerous stamens; gynoecium unicarpellous and glabrous, with a pistil and a half-inferior ovary.

Fruit: drupe (sloe) 1-2 cm in diam., subglobose, dark blue or black, glaucous.


It flowers between the end of winter and spring, and the fruits mature in summer.

Geographic origin

Native to Europe, W Asia and NW Africa. It occurs throughout most of the Iberian Peninsula.


It is ornamental because of its showy flowers and makes excellent fences because of its spines. Its fruits are macerated to prepare a liqueur called sloe gin and also a very popular liqueur in Spain called "pacharán".

It is mainly propagated by grafting on various rootstocks.

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