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Sapalta Cherry-Plum (Chum)

Brooks, Alberta 1941 ~ open pollinated seeding of Sapa
(P.pumila x P.salicina 'Sultan' ~ N.E. Hansen, S.D. 1908)
(sand cherry x Japanese plum)

first planted 1990 


Sapalta cherry-plum fruit

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  Mont Royal


  Sapalta Chum

  South Dakota




#1 - 1990 original from Moosebell - cut down 2015 (see notes at bottom)
#2 -  2014 rootsuckers from original
#3 - 2015 graft of original on sapalta sucker.
#4 to #9... - suckers, to transplant, grow or graft onto

(Moosebell) Sapalta is the best we have fruited of this type. Red purple, 1 1/4-1 1/2 in diameter fruit w/ bluish bloom, small pit, deep red flesh. Tastes sweeter than a sour cherry and has a real plum flavor. Frost enhances sweetness. May set a crop by itself but we recommend a pollinator. Tree grows to six feet and will spread to 8ft or more.

Hansen quote (old Seed Savers article) "All the sand cherry hybrids should be kept in bush form with many stems close to the ground. As they bear heavily on one-year-old wood, try to have an abundance of this wood coming on by pruning back the shoots that have born several years. The sand cherry hybrids should not be trimmed up with a high stem as with ordinary plums."

2021 - Cut down all chums north of garden. Not fruiting (likely due to spring frosts) and too many suckers in blueberries.

2020 - 5/29  #2 & #3 blossoms full (most plums dropping petals now). No fruit.

2019 - #3  - Sept.1 Picked 12 fruit, smaller than usual, many cracks but OK, made sauce.

#2 - Vigorous growth and blossom, no fruit. Think next year I'll choose one shoot and train trunk same as #3. Or not...

#8 - April 8 2 yr growth - vole got inside cage, girdled trunk ~2" 2"up. Put newsp around inside cage, filled with fresh pine fine sawdust from shop up above the girdle ~2".  8/15 Took cage off. Ants had moved in, lots of aphids on branch end hit hard but regrew. The girdled area had completely regrown. Could hardly tell where the injury was, only see slight indent.

others - Letting many grow along 'row'. Don't know whether to let form an informal 'hedge' and grow as Hansen advises (and don't worry about voles), or train several with trunks and cages like original (and #3) and manage as small trees.

2018 - #3 - Major girdling of new shoots around trunk. Full bloom - 11 fruit (had more but many aborted. Aug 26, ripe & split, good as usual. Major ant/aphid. Untied from stakes, cleared, pruned, tanglefoot end July. Removed stakes - did fine. Let a good nearby new sucker grow (fenced) for replacement if needed. Good 6-20" growth, lots fruit spurs, looking good. Has two 24" strong upright shoots near center - Maybe graft apricot to those ‘19?

#2 - Significant vole damage on main shoots. cut off one + most long tips & under branches. Thinned, cleaned up, tanglefooted. Left some new suckers and shoots. Had good bloom, a dozen fruit but all dropped early. Not good form to fence. Ended up cutting rest back, left one 2 yr shoot 3 ft ht. Start over. Also nearby suckers. Need to be able to put hardware cloth around for voles and tanglefoot. Lot ants/aphid.

2017 - #3 - Vigorous, all shoots full of fruit buds, prolific blooms, a little later than others to start but full overlap and bloomed a long time. But no fruit. Early May cut back shoots and many fruit spurs to "thin" (guess didn’t need that!). Summer pruned more. Vigorous healthy leaves in a wet year of plenty of blight/aphids. Lots of yarrow growing around base, full of aphids but not tree (trap crop?). Encourage more to grow.    Turns out Sapalta1 was on own roots, so suckers are same. Didn’t need to graft original. Let local suckers grow then cut out first tree, which never did root strongly, still needs support. Grow as bush, not tree?

#2 - Vigorous, healthy growth. Pruned off several thick shoots early May, tipped back many, cut off many fruit spurs to thin. Full bloom end May, lasted into June. Summer pruned. Significant aphids on tips, nipped off a lot, but healthy leaves. Growing wide. Will need to prune to more upright shoots. Fruit!! 4 chums. Picked 1 too early, then one 9/2 - good! AND it’s a Sapalta - original was on own roots not grafted. Picked (and ate) next ones 9/7 & 9/11. So good.

 2016 - #3 - Letting some lower shoots on trunk grow to graft lower. Cut scions late winter and graft 2017. Vigorous growth of top, pruned to 3 "vase" shape, and summer pruned those back some. Rather spindly trunk so had staked upright. Took stakes down but then whole tree tipped over in strong wind! Put back upright and restaked. Hope grafting and growing lower to ground will help, and that roots get stronger hold.

#2 - Grew vigorously. Cut back several times. Forgot Hanson’s recommendation to grow new shoots each year as I cut back to 3 leaves (8/23) probably shoots that were low and growing up. Oh well, next year. It really doesn’t apply till shoots are fruiting. See above quote. Healthy. Full of blossoms, no fruit (really too early). Fall--lots fruit buds!

 2015 - #3 - grafted 5/16. Scion from original 1990 Moosebell tree cut late winter. Graft on nearby sucker (actually a clump of suckers, cut all but one strong upright one) which appeared to be a sandcherry because the leaves were narrower than Sapalta, also had thorns. I assume from the original Sapalta but could also be a cherry plum sapling (planted by squirrels)?? Graft took well and grew vigorously. Grafted too high though! Vigorous growth.

#2 - sucker from root of original 1990 Moosebell tree cut down spring of 2015. By 2015 original Sapalta was obviously giving out so cut some scions late winter and cut the hardy, persistent little tree down -- 24 years old! Let root shoots grow which they did vigorously. 2016 chose one and cut rest. They appeared more plum-like than sandcherry-like which the nearby shoot that we grafted onto appeared. Grew 3 strong, low, LONG shoots. Probably should have cut back mid summer! Don’t know if original would have been grafted or if on its own roots (likely). Time, and fruit, will tell.

1990 - 2011 -- Original Sapalta from Moosebell Nursery gave us a lot of fruit over the years. Very few notes but I remember some good harvests, and good fruit, for fresh snacking, sauce, wine. Winters were colder back then but I think trees stayed dormant later so weren't affected so often by those May/June frosts/freezes that damage blooms. I appreciated and enjoyed this tree which lived longer than they say cherry-plums do (24 years!). I never did get a good harvest, or for that matter hardly any fruit, from subsequent suckers but likely the cause is weather related.

SAPALTA PLUM SUCKERS (any could possibly be plum suckers but are nearer to Sapalta trees)

chum-1&2 tr 2017 to nursery plot. died

chum-3 tr 2017 to nursery plot. Tr to NorthEast Orchard Oct. 2018.

chum-4 tr 2017 to nursery plot. Tr Oct. 2018 to NorthWest Orchard (n of nw garden fence).

chum-5 tr 2017 to ne orchard, near fence n of lg pine to graft apricot when larger.

chum-6 tr 2017 to ec orchard, near fence, n of pine to graft apricot when larger.

chum-7 tr May 2018 from near Sapalta3 to NorthWest Orchard, n of nw garden fence (e one of 4 pl/ch)

chum-8 2015 sucker west of Sapalta2 in row north of garden (cut down 2021)

chum-9 2017 sucker east of Sapalta3 in row north of garden (cut down 2021)

Copyright Susan Robishaw

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