Prunus mume, commonly known as ume (梅:うめ) or Japanese apricot, or Chinese plum is a species of Asian plum in the family Rosaceae. The flower, long a beloved subject in the traditional painting of East Asia and Vietnam, is usually translated as plum blossom.
The tree originated in China and was later brought to Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. The tree is cultivated for its fruit and flowers. Although generally referred to as a plum in English, it is actually more closely related to the apricot.
The tree flowers in late winter, typically late January or February in East Asia, before the leaves appear. Each flower has five petals and is 1–3 cm in diameter. The flowers have coloring ranging from white to rose to deep red. The leaves appear shortly after the petals fall. The leaves are oval, with a pointed tip. The fruit ripens in early summer, typically June in East Asia. The ripening of the fruit coincides with the rainy season of China and Japan, méiyǔ (梅雨, literally "ume rains"), read baiu or tsuyu in Japanese. Each fruit is round with a groove running from the stalk to the tip. The skin is green when unripe, and turns yellow, sometimes with a red blush, as it ripens. The flesh becomes yellow.
The plant is known by a number of different names in English. Arguably the most widely accepted is Japanese apricot. Other variants include Japanese plum and Chinese plum (both names also used for Prunus salicina). An alternative name is ume, from the Japanese name, or mume, from the scientific name, also ultimately based on an older, alternative Japanese pronunciation—possibly the original—of "mme" (んめ), which was written "mume" (むめ). Another alternative is mei, from the Chinese name, which is usually seen in the context of Chinese art and cuisine, and imports from Chinese-speaking regions.
Sometimes names such as ume plum and umeboshi plum (the latter referring to Japanese pickled ume) are also seen. For the tree and flower, names like Japanese flowering apricot, flowering plum, and winter plum may be used, the latter specifically with regard to depiction of the flower in Chinese painting.
In Chinese it is called méi (梅) or méizi (梅子). The Japanese name is ume (kanji: 梅; hiragana: うめ) while the Korean name is maesil (hangul: 매실; hanja: 梅實). The Japanese and Korean terms derive from Middle Chinese, in which the pronunciation is thought to have been muəi.. The Vietnamese name is mai or mơ (although mai may also refer to a different plant, Ochna integerrima, in the south of Vietnam).
See also: Florist Paris, Vietnam Flower, India Flower