Likepvs cē

Likepvs cē / Welcome!

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is one of the largest federally recognized tribes in the so-called United States, with a population of 87,344 enrolled citizens as of April 2019. This website is dedicated to Mvskoke cultural and ecological traditions in Indian Territory (eastern Oklahoma), in the original homelands of Mvskokvlke (Alabama and Georgia, thereabouts), and anywhere else este Mvskoke happen to be living.

Mvskoke Country began in 2009 as a monthly column on environmental issues published in the Muscogee Nation News, reprinted elsewhere, and archived here. Each installment offered a topical perspective on enduring themes in human ecology; I tried to connect local concerns with global realities and to reconnect Mvskoke traditions with the natural world. Many of these pieces incorporated insights gained from close study of the Mvskoke language, which bears evidence of ecological decline in the historical period.

In February 2010, I presented this work at the Food Sovereignty Symposium organized by the Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative. In July 2010, “West Texas or Worse” was awarded second place in the Best Column Monthly/Bi-Monthly category at the annual Media Awards of the Native American Journalists Association. In 2010-11, I wrote a yearlong series on the Mvskoke calendar and its relationship to natural phenomena.

In 2011, I added a web-only feature: field notes, a weekly feed of vital insights from Mvskoke ecological knowledge. New posts appeared on Wednesdays, Ennvrkvpv—literally, “the middle of (the week)”—because that’s where we humans stand with respect to our natural environment: in the middle of things, and with no clear way out of the ecological crises we’ve created. The monthly column and weekly feed went on hiatus later that year while I worked on other projects.

In 2016-17, I posted monthly found poems on human ecology drawn from interviews with mostly elderly people in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation recorded in the 1930s. Revised versions of some of these pieces, along with many newfound poems from the archive, will appear in a book titled A Sort of Strange Land: Poems Found in Indian Territory.

In 2018, I began posting vintage recipes for traditional Mvskoke dishes from hard-to-find cookbooks and other obscure sourcesIn 2019, I began writing a quarterly column titled Pum Ēkvnv / Our Land” for POME Magazine, another MCN publication. I try to keep the links in the sidebar up-to-date, though external links found elsewhere on this website may be obsolete.

I am descended from the Evans and Escoe families, whose allotments were in the Oktaha area, south of Muskogee. I was born in Anadarko, in the western part of the state, and grew up in off-reservation communities in northeast Kansas and western South Dakota. After an academic vocation teaching at several public research universities, I am now an autonomous scholar, freelance creative, indigenous advocate, and nonviolent outdoorsman living in southwest New Mexico, within walking distance of the Continental Divide.

If you like what you find here, tell a friend.
If you have any comments or questions, let me know.

Mvto / Thanks
James Treat

A Month Named Glistening

POME Magazine, Winter 2020 ⇒

The long growing season in Mvskoke country finally comes to an end with first frost, when surface temperatures drop low enough to transform water vapor into ice.

Various factors affect the formation of these spiny ice crystals, producing different types of frost.  Each plant, in turn, responds to the onset of freezing conditions according to its specific characteristics.  Farmers are especially concerned with the nature and severity of this annual transition, particularly in climates with shorter growing seasons.

When our farming forebears were driven west in the nineteenth century, the ones who survived found agricultural circumstances fairly similar to those in the Mvskoke homeland.

Forced removal to Indian Territory must have been even more traumatic for people from dissimilar climates.  Imagine the subsistence challenges that faced Seminoles arriving from the Florida Everglades, Potawatomis from the shores of Lake Michigan, and Modocs from northeastern California.

As it turned out, the average frost-free period in eastern Oklahoma is almost identical to that of the old country, with the last freeze typically occurring in early April and first frost in late October.  So Eholē, the fifth month in the Mvskoke calendar, was as fitting in the west as it had been in the east.  The name for this month is commonly translated “frost,” but like many English versions of Mvskoke words, some important information gets lost in translation.  

The general term for ice and other forms of frozen water is hetutē.  This is the root word for at least two compound terms referring to different types of frost:  hetutē-hvtkuce, literally “little white ice,” and hetutē-lvste, literally “black ice.”  The apparent contradiction involving color may reflect the fact that frost crystals are usually translucent and can take on the cast of the underlying surface.

Eholē, on the other hand, seems to be archaic terminology with a more complex etymology.  Most written accounts of Mvskoke vocabulary render this month’s name as “frost,” but there are a couple of interesting exceptions. 

In 1791, U.S. agent Caleb Swan translated it as “falling leaf moon,” highlighting one of the more obvious effects of first frost.  In 1928, anthropologist John R. Swanton translated the other eleven month names but omitted a direct translation of this one, instead describing it as a term “indicating a change in the weather,” yet another way to convey the arrival of freezing temperatures.

Eholē thus signifies first frost, falling leaves, a change in the weather.  But it is not a conventional term for “frost,” so how did this month’s name originate?

There are intriguing clues in the two comprehensive dictionaries translating Mvskoke words into English.

The first was published in 1890 at Red Fork, which is now part of southwest Tulsa.  Among its roughly eight thousand entries, the most likely candidates for words cognate to eholē are the verb holocetv, “to glisten, shine bright,” and the related adjective holocē, “bright.”

The second Mvskoke-English dictionary was published in 2000 by the University of Nebraska Press.  It includes an entry for a similar word, the adjective hololoccē, “iridescent, shiny (as of a feather).”

Both dictionaries also list words that might complicate this analysis:  vholocetv, “to cloud up,” for example.  On the other hand, I know at least one person who has heard eholē used to describe a woman wearing shiny clothes.

Frost is likelier to form overnight in the absence of cloud cover, when the land cools more rapidly and chills the moist air at ground level.  Perhaps this month’s name originated in the appearance of a transformed landscape after a cold, clear night:  bright, shiny, glistening, iridescent.  And the sight of frost in the morning sun can be particularly striking at its first occurrence each year, after seven months of weather above the freezing point.

Why bother with all this scrutiny of language and weather?

If these speculations are correct, they suggest that eholē is much more than a factual description of a natural phenomenon.  Think of it:  a month named “Glistening”!  The play of sunlight over our frost-covered world, a pristine landscape that just hours earlier displayed only earth tones and vegetation in decay.  Whoever coined this name had an eye for beauty where modern science sees mere crystalline ice and the refraction of light.

Any agricultural society might name one of its months for the coming of frost.  But it takes an aesthetic appreciation for the environment to settle on a word like eholē.  This is traditional ecological knowledge at its finest.

Our Mvskoke ancestors were wise people indeed.

A Second Mvskoke Removal?

POME Magazine, Fall 2019 ⇒

Ten years ago, during a brief sabbatical from university life, I visited Glacier National Park in northwest Montana. I had been there twice before, in the mid-1960s, when my family camped our way across the northern plains to escape the southern plains’ summer heat. Home movies shot on 8mm film preserved brief glimpses of glaciers that are now only a memory, of glacial runoff that no longer flows.

Although I don’t recall much from those early childhood adventures, I had always wanted to go back to the “crown of the continent,” a desire that had grown more urgent as I learned more about global warming. I was living in Illinois at the time, so I rode Amtrak halfway across the country hoping to see the last of the park’s namesake attractions before they’re gone. By strange coincidence, I arrived at the gateway hamlet of East Glacier on the eve of the heavily promoted PBS series “The National Parks.” But television is always a poor substitute for first-hand experience, and electronic media is also a symptom of the very crisis facing this particular park: anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change.

Glaciers are formed during periods of regional cooling, when snow accumulates from year to year and gradually turns to ice. If this process continues long enough, the combined weight of snow and ice forces the bottom layers to advance across the land, eroding terrain like a giant scouring pad.

But glaciers produce more than just scenic landscapes. Meltwater from alpine glaciers amounts to about a quarter of annual mountain runoff. These cool, clear streams provide more than half of the world’s fresh water supply. Turn off the glacial spigot, and a lot of people are going to be thirsty.

When the climate turns warmer and drier, glaciers start retreating. And they’ve been under attack since the Industrial Revolution, when humans began burning fossil fuels in earnest and filling the atmosphere with greenhouse gases. This process has accelerated in recent years as we’ve increased our use of nonrenewable energy. Scientists estimate that 98% of the earth’s glaciers are now in retreat, and that 80% of them will disappear by the end of this century.

In 1850, there were about 150 glaciers in the area that would become Glacier National Park. When my family visited the park in the mid-1960s, there were about 50 left. By the time I returned in 2009, there were only 26.

Park brochures and exhibits at the time said these dwindling survivors wouldn’t last beyond the year 2030. But talk privately with a park ranger and you’d learn that the latest measurements indicated they were melting even faster than expected. The glaciers of Glacier National Park might be completely gone by 2020, now just a few months away.

I first wrote about this majestic place on “the backbone of the world” in my column “Mvskoke Country,” which ran monthly in the Muscogee Nation News for several years, 2009-2011. Glacier was established in 1910 as the United States’ tenth national park, so in 2009 government officials and local leaders were gearing up for its centennial. Since we modern humans can’t seem to kick our addiction to coal and oil and natural gas, I wondered in print whether that might be a good occasion to announce a new name: Glacier MEMORIAL National Park.

Today, the park’s official website encourages visitors to explore “pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and spectacular lakes,” but there is little mention of the few “small glaciers” that remain. Buried three menus deep on a page titled “How to See a Glacier,” the website confesses that “Glacier National Park isn’t the easiest place to see an active glacier.” There are internet links to nineteen permanent webcams in the park, but none that features an actual glacier. Seven of the nineteen webcams are trained on paved roads or parking lots, which strikes me as a pretty accurate reflection of the ecological transaction that has taken place.

What does all this have to do with Mvskoke country?

Mvskokvlke have lived in warm, humid environments for a very long time. The Mvskoke language doesn’t even have a term for glacier, though it wouldn’t be hard to come up with one—akhvse-rakko hetute, “frozen lake,” might do.

The impact of global warming may be more obvious at higher altitudes and latitudes, where glaciers tend to live, but every place on our planet is feeling the effects of rising greenhouse gases.  The average temperature on the Great Plains is already up nearly two degrees compared to 1979, a remarkable increase in just forty years. And it will likely jump another couple of degrees during the next decade.

Temperature rise in the southern plains will be largest during the summer months. Extreme weather events—heat waves, heavy rains, tornadoes—will become more frequent. The southern plains will get less precipitation during the twenty-first century, especially in the west. The panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas could dry up enough to produce another Dust Bowl.

In the very near future, people in Mvskoke country are going to find themselves living in a climate that is noticeably hotter and more arid than they remember. It is almost as if the Creek Nation has pulled up roots and started migrating to the southwest. You may roll out of bed one morning and wonder how you ended up in West Texas, or worse. Could this be like a second great removal, with este Mvskoke—and everyone else—embarking on a long passage into the unknown?

The earth simply cannot sustain our current levels of consumption and waste. Anthropogenic climate change is tempting fate on this spinning, blue planet.

What Climate Change Means for Oklahoma

In the coming decades, Oklahoma will become warmer, and both floods and droughts may be more severe. . . . Soils have become drier, annual rainfall has increased, and more rain arrives in heavy downpours. . . . Summers are likely to be increasingly hot and dry, which would reduce the productivity of farms and ranches, change parts of the landscape, and possibly harm human health. . . .

As rising temperatures increase evaporation and water use by plants, soils are likely to become even drier. Average rainfall is likely to decrease during spring and summer. . . . Increased evaporation and decreased rainfall are likely to reduce the average flow of rivers and streams. . . . Decreased river flows can create problems for navigation, recreation, public water supplies, and electric power generation. . . . Compounding the challenges for electric utilities, rising temperatures are expected to increase the demand for electricity for air conditioning. . . .

Increasing droughts and higher temperatures are likely to interfere with Oklahoma’s farms and cattle ranches. . . . Yields are likely to decline by about 50 percent in fields that can no longer be irrigated. The early flowering of winter wheat could have negative repercussions on livestock farmers who depend on it for feed. . . .

Although summer droughts are likely to become more severe, floods may also intensify. . . . Over the next several decades, the amount of rainfall during the wettest days of the year is likely to continue to increase, which would increase flooding. . . .

Higher temperatures and drought are likely to increase the severity, frequency, and extent of wildfires, which could harm property, livelihoods, and human health. . . . The combination of more fires and drier conditions may change parts of Oklahoma’s landscape. . . . When fire destroys the natural cover, the native grasses and woody plants may be replaced by non-native grasses, which can become established more readily after a fire. Because non-native grasses are generally more prone to intense fires, native plants may be unable to re-establish themselves.

“Climate Change Indicators in the U.S.”
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Living on Mvskoke Time

POME Magazine, Summer 2019

Every human society has ways of marking and tracking the passage of time.  If you’re a citizen, resident, or employee of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, then you’ve probably seen one of the colorful wall calendars featuring Mvskoke names for the months along with other important information.  Recent editions have been produced by the MCN Office of Public Relations; in years past, they were published by the Communications Department (now Mvskoke Media) with titles such as Mvskoke Etvlwv 2010 Nettv Vhvnkatv, which can be translated literally as “Muscogee Towns 2010 Day Counter.”

That’s an interesting turn of phrase, “day-counter,” and there are at least two other ways to express the English word “calendar” in the Mvskoke language.  The term hvse-onayv combines hvse, which can mean “sun” or “month,” and onayv, “one who tells [a story].”  Of course, the sun and the moon are central elements in how we tell the story of terrestrial chronology.  A colloquial translation of hvse-onayv might be “date-teller,” another pretty good expression for calendar.

My personal favorite is cokv-walv, a contraction of cokv and owalvCokv refers to a book or some other form of written text, while owalv is a prophet or fortune-teller, one who tries to foresee what’s coming.  So the literal meaning is “book-prophesier,” though the phrase makes more sense in English if we translate it as “writing that predicts the future.”  This strikes me as a useful reminder that any calendar offers only a prediction—not a promise—of days to come.  It’s easy to see something in print and presume that it must be true.  But there’s no guarantee we’ll be around tomorrow, which is why it’s important to live each day to the fullest.

Incidentally, the English word “calendar” comes from the Latin kalendarium, “moneylender’s account book,” a derivation that speaks volumes about the modern attitude toward natural rhythms:  “time is money,” as the saying goes.  So take your pick, nettv-vhvnkatv or hvse-onayv or cokv-walv, they’re all kindlier than kalendarium.  Better to live by a day-counter, a date-teller, or a text that predicts the future than under the control of a moneylender’s account book.

Along with the Mvskoke months, older editions of the MCN calendar also included Mvskoke names for the days of the week.  This was helpful for those of us who didn’t grow up speaking the Mvskoke language, and these names can teach us about Mvskoke history and culture as well.  For example, the seven-day “week” is a cultural tradition from ancient Europe and the Middle East—it has no basis in natural phenomena, unlike the lunar month and the solar year.  Mvskokvlke adopted this alien cycle in recent times to accommodate the dominant culture.

A hundred years ago, our names for these days were mostly loanwords:  Monday became Mvntē; Tuesday was either Tustē or Mvntē Enhvyvtke, “the day after Monday.”  Today we also have descriptive terms based on each day’s position in the weekly rotation:  Wednesday is Ennvrkvpv, literally “half of [the week]” or “its middle”; Thursday is Ennvrkvpv Enhvyvtke, “the day after the middle of the week.”

Our names for the months, on the other hand, are much older and reflect Mvskoke familiarity with the natural world [see below]:

The annual round begins with posketv, “to fast” (called “Green Corn” in English), along with two months named for the harvest, Hvyuce and Hyvo-Rakko; it is a time for reaping corn and other produce that will sustain the community through the year to come.  This season of meskē, “summer,” continues with a couple of months announcing another kind of ingathering, Otvwoskuce and Otvwoskv-Rakko, when ripe chestnuts were thrashed down from the branches of a majestic tree now decimated by immigrant blight.

The next season—rvfo, “winter”—opens and closes with single months marking the arrival of falling temperatures and of rising winds:  Eholē and Hotvlē-Hvse.  In between these transitional periods are sibling months named for the season itself, Rvfo-Rakko and Rvfo ‘Cuse, when the organic world lies dormant and rests.

The third and final season is tasahcē, “spring”; it begins with paired months named for the season,Tasahcuce and Tasahce-Rakko, as the land awakens and awaits the sowing of seeds.  These are followed by two months honoring plants that provide edible fruit, Kē-Hvse and Kvco-Hvse, at a time when winter stores are running low and the new crops are not yet ready for harvest.  The reliable return of summer solstice and posketv means the end of one year and the beginning of another in Mvskoke country.

Why bother with such things in a technocratic world of comfort and convenience?

Mvskoke time is much more than linguistic trivia or ethnic nostalgia.  Our indigenous forebears were keen observers of earth and sky, and cokv-walv Mvskoke conveys some of their most vital natural insights.  Like other indigenous peoples, Mvskokvlke “survived by knowing their natural environment well and making direct use of its surpluses,” writes J. Donald Hughes in North American Indian Ecology.  “They kept track of annual cycles, naming the months after the natural changes they observed.  Their lives were closely involved in nature’s rhythms, and they were conscious of this.”

The Mvskoke calendar is one way our ancestors preserved their understanding of natural rhythms and resources.  “The Indian names for the ‘moons,’ or months, show at least a part of their detailed knowledge of the seasonal cycles and rhythms of nature:  when flowers or fruits would appear, when the young of animals would be born, when the lakes would freeze, when the birds would return. . . . The Indians’ science was a blend of observation, reason, insight and nature mysticism,” which is also a good description of modern technoscience if you replace nature mysticism with the profit motive.  And humanity’s great transformation from grounded spirituality to transcendent greed has laid the foundation for our current environmental crises.

The Mvskoke calendar is just one example of what scholars call “traditional ecological knowledge,” the distilled wisdom of generations and the nature-based way of life that generates it.  As among other indigenous peoples, Mvskoke ecological knowledge addresses practical, social, and religious concerns.  The Gregorian calendar used by the dominant culture, by contrast, bears little connection to nature; the English names for the months, for example, are based on a jumble of Latin numbers, Roman deities, and other useless anachronisms.

Not so for cokv-walv Mvskoke.  No money changes hands under this calendar; the only transactions specified herein are ecological, not financial.  Mvskokvlke owe no allegiance to European imperialists—Julius Caesar (July), Augustus Caesar (August)—or to any culture that would try to conquer nature.  Instead, cokv-walv Mvskoke does exactly what a calendar ought to do:  it reminds us where we are in time, just as a map helps us understand where we are in space.  Both schemas work best when they situate a living people in an ever-changing place, orienting us to the means of survival through our natural environment.  These are valuable traditions that can help us meet the challenges ahead.

It is good to have a Mvskoke calendar for Mvskoke country.

Cokv-Walv Mvskoke / Muscogee Calendar

Hvyuce / Little Harvest (≈July)

Hvyo-Rakko / Big Harvest (≈August)

Otvwoskuce / Little Chestnut-Thrashing (≈September)

Otvwoskv-Rakko / Big Chestnut-Thrashing (≈October)

Eholē / Frost (≈November)

Rvfo-Rakko / Big Winter (≈December)

Rvfo ‘Cuse / Winter’s Younger Brother (≈January)

Hotvlē-Hvse / Wind Month (≈February)

Tasahcuce / Little Spring (≈March)

Tasahce-Rakko / Big Spring (≈April)

Kē-Hvse / Mulberry Month (≈May)

Kvco-Hvse / Blackberry Month (≈June)

You can learn more about each month by following the links at

Reclaiming the Mvskoke Plum

POME Magazine, Spring 2019

Food is a necessity for human survival and a focal point of cultural tradition, as in Hokti’s Recipe Book of Creek Indian Foods. The endless variety of local sustenance can serve as the basis for charting the territories on Planet Earth, including our own remarkable continent.

A noteworthy effort to reconceive “America” on the basis of culinary geography is documented in the book Renewing America’s Food Traditions.  Edited by ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan, this lavishly illustrated volume grew from the timely collaboration of seven major organizations committed to “saving and savoring the continent’s most endangered foods.”

Nabhan and his colleagues have mapped North America—including Northwest Mexico and most of Canada—by identifying thirteen regional “food nations” distinguished by place-based foodways.  Each food nation is named for an iconic dish, and anyone familiar with Mvskoke tastes will be gratified to learn that Mvskoke country, both before and after Removal, is encompassed by “Cornbread Nation.”  Back east, this region borders “Chestnut Nation” and “Gumbo Nation” in the Mvskoke homeland; out west, this agricultural complex shares a boundary with “Bison Nation” running across the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

The RAFT collaborative has inventoried more than a thousand heirloom varieties and heritage breeds that are currently threatened, endangered, or functionally extinct.  Nearly a hundred are profiled in the book, at least half of which were—or still are—indigenous staples.  The ten plants and animals detailed in a chapter on Cornbread Nation are as colorfully named as they are appetizing:  Yellow Hickory King Dent corn, Mulefoot hog, Southern Queen yam, Early Golden persimmon.

But the most intriguing story here, from a Mvskoke perspective, is surely the so-called Chickasaw plum.

Early European colonists coveted the different “wild Plums of America,” the trees as well as their fruit, which was “considered to be of extraordinary excellence in flavor.” The English common name was coined in 1773 by botanist William Bartram, who mistakenly believed this particular species had been brought to Mvskoke country “from the S. W. beyond the Missisippi, by the Chicasaws.”  This mis-identification was codified in 1785 when the plum was assigned a Latin scientific name:  “Prunus angustifolia, Chickasaw Plumb.”

George Washington planted three long rows of P. angustifolia behind the garden at Mount Vernon.  Thomas Jefferson established the species at eight different locations on his plantation, and “of all the tree fruits grown at Monticello today,” the estate’s gardener wrote in 1998, “the Chickasaw plum is the healthiest and most vigorous with its clean, shiny, pest-free foliage and abundant fruit production.”

The plot thickened during the Creek War, over two centuries ago, when frontier militia and their Cherokee allies massacred Mvskoke residents of the Helvpe villages near the Tallapoosa River on November 18, 1813.  Having also chanced upon a patch of fruit trees, one settler returned home with a supply of native plum pits, which he cultivated in Knox County, Tennessee.

Locals loved the new plum and took to calling it “General Jackson” and “Old Hickory,” commemorating the spoils of war at Horseshoe Bend.  The looted fruit later made its way to Illinois, where it was propagated under the name “Chickasaw Chief,” and to Wisconsin, where it came to be known as the “Miner” plum, now the Chickasaw’s best-known cultivar.

Writing in 1911, horticulturalist U. P. Hedrick described this species as “one of the most distinct of plums” and “the first of the native plums to be named,” of which there were already more than forty named cultivars.  “The fruits are good in quality, attractive in appearance, comparatively curculio-proof [pest-resistant],” and “especially suited for culinary uses.”  But industrial agriculture had little use for this indigenous commodity, and over the past century P. angustifolia was nearly lost and forgotten.

Recent discoveries near Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River, however, have shed new light on both the plum and its history.

Most nonnative writers have assumed this indigenous fruit to be wild.  Yet Bartram saw plenty of Chickasaw plums during his travels in Mvskoke country, and he “never saw it wild in the forests, but always in old deserted Indian” settlements. Hedrick also noted that “it is usually found near human habitations and on the margins of fields,” and that “a careful study of recent botanical works indicates that the species is indigenous to the southeastern United States.”

Finally, in 2004, botanists working at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park found six cross-compatible species of native Prunus—including P. angustifolia—near the site of the Mvskoke fortification.  It now seems clear that the original specimens taken from Helvpe, a few miles to the west, had been carefully cultivated by Mvskoke growers.

Nabhan and his RAFT colleagues extol this plum for its “primacy among the continent’s great fruits,” concluding that “perhaps the Creek were more accomplished horticulturalists than anyone has given them credit for.”

Two months in the Mvskoke calendar are named for indigenous fruits:  Kē-Hvse (Mulberry Month) and Kvco-Hvse (Blackberry Month).  Perhaps someday the dominant culture will acknowledge that the “Chickasaw” plum should be renamed for its Mvskoke cultivators.

[Mvskoke] Plum / Prunus Angustifolia

[Mvskoke] plum . . . is a native shrub or low tree.  It has a wide geographic area of distribution ranging from Maryland to Florida and westward to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.  It is found most commonly on sandy soils in pastures or open woods. . . .

Its white flowers are attractive and fragrant in the spring, producing a beautiful flower show.  It should be part of any native landscape planting. . . . The blooms are attractive to honey bees and other pollinator species. . . . The fruits are small, thin-skinned, red, orange-red or yellow, . . . fruiting in June-August. . . . Native Americans regularly consumed fresh fruits of [Mvskoke] plum or dried them for winter. . . .

One-year-old, bare-root seedlings, 18 to 24 inches tall, are used in plantings.  Control of weed and grass competition during the first and second years is important for survival, early growth, and final establishment of the plants.  [Mvskoke] plums are drought tolerant. . . . Once established, the plums should be able to fend for themselves.  If fruit/seed production is the goal, then annual maintenance is required. . . .

[Mvskoke] plum is a popular plant for use in developing wildlife habitat on sandy soils. The thorny thicket is valuable for songbird and game bird nesting, loafing, and roosting.  Various other animals also use it for loafing, bedding, and escape cover.  Numerous species of birds and other animals consume the fruit.  The plums provide nesting cover for northern bobwhites, brown thrashers, northern mockingbirds, and gray catbirds in the southeastern U.S. . . . Rabbits may chew on the bark, but new sprouts will form to replace injured stems. . . .

[Mvskoke] plum is very effective in stabilizing blowing soil.  It may be used in the outside row of windbreaks for ground level protection.  It is also used to stabilize stream banks and gullies. . . . It occurs naturally in sandy soil, but will perform well when planted on heavier clay-loam soils. Although partially shade tolerant, it performs best in full sun. . . .

The search for agricultural diversification has rekindled interest in the domestication and utilization of [Mvskoke] plums as a high value, specialty crop. . . .

United States Department of Agriculture
National Resources Conservation Service