What Is The Difference Between Plums and Damsons?

Damsons and plums are related; hence it’s unsurprising that it can be difficult to tell the two apart. To help with this, I’ve outlined the differences between the two below so that you can begin to, from this moment forward. 

So, what is the difference between plums and damsons? The differences between plums and damsons are vast and include everything from their respective historical roots through to their taste, color, shape, and even how they are consumed. 

Read on to find out more, but if you want to see a quick visual difference, here it is for you:

Plum vs Damson

What Is The Difference Between Plums And Damsons?

Damsons may be a subspecies of the plum tree, but even with their proximity to the family tree, there are myriad differences between the two. 

Historical Roots

To start chronologically, it is thought that damsons have been around for ten thousand years. 

They were first discovered in Syria and brought across to the West by Romans. 

In contrast, plums, the much newer kids on the block, date back to a meager two thousand years, and whilst today, there exist several types of plum, the variations that we most commonly come across tend to have roots in China, Japan, and across Europe. 

Appearance & Shape

Origins aside, damsons and plums look different too. 

In size, plums can reach a diameter of 7cm long, whilst damsons are much smaller, coming in at an average of 3cm. 

In shape, plums are round, whilst damsons are known for their ovoid egg-like structure. 

Additionally, ripe plums exist in a range of colors, from yellow, all the way through to blue-black. 

Quite differently, a ripe damson is discernible by its consistent blue-black tone. 

Similarly, whilst plum trees are capable of flowering white, pink, and even purple foliage, damson trees strictly bloom white flowers.


From a growth perspective, damson trees take approximately fifteen years to evolve from the initial seed to a fruit-bearing tree. 

Plum trees reach equivalent maturity much more quickly, within just six years and sometimes within three!

How Do You Identify Plums?

Identifying plums can be tricky. Namely, because there are so many different variations, and even those from the same family can be found with varying skin colors, from yellow to purple, to black! 

With that being said, telling a plum apart from other fruits certainly is possible! 

Here are some characteristics to look out for.


First, plums grow on trees. These trees are commonly found in well-drained soil in areas that receive eight or so hours of sunlight a day, the environment in which the trees grow best. 


Unripe plums can be spotted by their green color once they do eventually ripen, which happens over a few months from the time that the tree blossoms; their color changes, and their once-hard texture softens considerably. 

Once a plum has been ripe for two weeks, it reaches an overripe state and eventually drops from the tree. 

Hence, it’s common to walk past a plum tree with several plums strewn across the ground beneath it in the Summer and Autumn months. 

And if you do indeed stumble upon a tree that you suspect to be bearing plums, why not take a bite? 

A ripe plum will have sweet-tasting flesh, whilst its skin offers a slight tang.

The overall flavor profile is not too dissimilar to that of a ripe apricot. 

Unripe plums are a different story. Their hard texture and tart flavor are generally regarded as unpleasant. 

Finally, plums are round in shape, and their size generally ranges between 2 and 7 cm. 

How Do You Identify Damsons?

Damsons grow on trees and are relatively easy to identify due to their unique shape; an egg-shaped ovoid. Their surrounding foliage consists of green leaves with toothed edges, and as of April each year, white flowers join the party too!

The fruit’s skin is blue-black, whilst its flesh is a contrasting yellow.

The flesh is smooth and regarded as ‘clingstone,’ meaning that it adheres tightly to the fruit’s central stone.

This can make the damson jam-making process more laborious than the making of jam of other fruits, but the results are worth it!

In size, damsons come in fairly small, capable of growth of around 3cm.

Finally, damsons are unique by way of their sour taste, even when ripe.

When cooked, the sour flavor is overtaken by a sweet one, and alas, the damson makes for a pleasant snack.

From jams to pies, cobblers, and even salads, cooked damsons have long been utilized in a range of ways in the kitchen. 

How Can You Tell A Plum From A Damson?

Whilst plums and damsons are closely related, and both grow on trees, the differences between the two are stark! First and foremost, their size. Even when fully grown, damsons are often half the size of their much more mainstream friends. 

In addition to this, the damson lineage is fairly black and white; that is, they were first found in Syria and were exported to the Western world, where they continue to grow in abundance today.

Similarly, plums are far from extinct, but it is worth noting there are many, many variations of them, and thus, they evolve to be several different colors to one another when ripe.

In contrast, the damson’s colorway is pretty straightforward in that their initial yellow-green color gradually changes to a blue-black once they have ripened.

A similar sentiment is true of each tree’s respective flowers.

On plum trees, it is common to find flowers in white, pink, and even purple tones, whereas the damson tree solely blooms white flowers.

In addition to this, the two fruits also differ in shape. It is easy to differentiate the damson’s unique oval shape from that of a round plum.

From a harvesting perspective, the two differ, albeit marginally.

Plums are ready to pick between July and September, whilst the damson schedule tends to follow one month later, with prime season occurring between August and October.

Finally, damsons and plums tend to be consumed in similar manners. They are both prime candidates for jams, cobblers, pies, and many more sweet treats!

Despite this, it is worth noting that the two differ in taste, with damsons being the more tart of the two.

Related Questions

Can you eat damson plums?

You can eat damson plums, both raw and cooked, but it is generally best to not eat them fresh from the tree. This is due to their sour and sharp flavor.

Is a damson a plum?

A damson is a subspecies of plum.

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