Often found in the dunes and coastal plains of Cape Cod, this deciduous shrub has a native range along the east coast of the US from Maine to Maryland. Its specific Latin name, “maritima,” aptly describes its habitat, meaning “relating to the sea.” A hardy species, it is extremely tolerant of cold, drought, and salt spray, though it does not prefer to be crowded by other species and requires full sunlight to thrive.
During early spring, its dense branches produce displays of bright white flowers with large yellow anthers in their centers. After they are pollinated by varieties of butterflies, birds, and bees, the flowers turn a light pink color. In August and September, the beach plum fruit ripens and feeds numerous coastal wildlife species, including many birds and small mammals. These small, blue-purple plums are edible to humans and have a tarter flavor than those found in grocery stores, which are cultivated from Asiatic plum varieties. They are commonly made into jams and jellies and even fermented to make wines in some vineyards.