Greetings, today I visited the home of Dot Piazza and Steve Piazza in order to bring some plums and look at the few plums developing in their plum tree. This is another one of those improved Chickasaw type trees like Toole’s Heirloom, Guthrie, Odom, McKibben and Excelsior. Unfortunately this particular tree has not been productive in part because it’s in too much shade and more fundamentally It has no pollination partner. However, by looking at several unripe plums and getting to see and sample one very ripe plum, I’m pretty sure that this is not one of the known named varieties. In fact it’s the most unique looking chickasaw plum yet. I wish I had thought to take a photo before eating the ripe one.
About the tree: First, someone pruning this tree with production in mind would have shaped it differently. This particular individual has a single leader going all the way to the top and is roughly shaped like a Christmas tree. Apart from that, it is Morphologically identical to Toole’s Heirloom all the way down to the completely green tender twigs. It suckers! (I’m getting a sucker this fall. Yay!!!) This particular tree is probably a little over 20 ft tall.
I only got to see one truly ripe plum. It had fallen off the tree on its on and was “soft ripe”. Nearly all the plums were kind of heart shaped, at least they would have been so cut in half with the the pistol end being a bit pointed like the bottom end of a heart. Maybe it would be better to describe them as “peach shaped”. I’ve never seen this shape in a Chickasaw plum before, Asian plums yes, Chickasaws no. The skin color was light, not yellow but kind of a dappled yellow and pink but with more salman and pink than yellow. The flesh is a deep pink to red. I can imagine that if someone were to cross an Elephant Heart Asian Plum with a Chickasaw plum and then backed cross it to Chickasaw again to get more Chickasaw features, the end result would look something like this. Now the plum would likely have been much redder had it ripened in the sun. The presence of direct sun has a big impact on the color of some Chickasaw plums.
The flavor of the plum is very, very sweet with no sourness nor bitterness in the skin or around the stone. It’s a clingstone type but did not seem to be as fiborous around the stone as most Chickasaws. I did not eat enough of them to really sort out flavors, Its a richer flavor than Toole’s Heirloom. The plum at soft ripe was firmer than what a Toole’s Heirloom or Robusto wourld be at that stage.
Bottom line we have a probably normally light colored Chickasaw with richly flavored red flesh. It’s definitely worthy of being named and included in the Georgia Southern Botanical Garden collection and disseminated more widely as a new variety. it does not match the description of any named Chickasaw that I can find. After discussing it with Ms. Dot, I’m naming the variety “Dot Piaza”.
This was one of two trees that came from Ms. Dot Piazza nephew (Sony?) who lives in SW Georgia. The nephew has three distinct types of improved Chickasaws which he has apparently acquired from other home growers. One of Ms Dot’s sons has the other tree she got from Sony. I’m guessing that Sony realized that you needed two trees from different varieties to get pollination. If so his good intentions were defeated with the trees ending up at two different households.
Dot is supposed to check to see if the tree in her son’s yard has fruit and if the fruit is the same or different, and hopefully she will check to see if it has suckers as well. Hopefully she will be able to describe it well enough for Sony to figure out which one we don’t have of the three so that all three strains can be preserved and named assuming they are all different from what’s already out there. So the quest to find good improved Chickasaw plums unknown to horticulture continues. But this may be the best find yet. God bless.