Plum amazing: Purple Pride fruit variety developed at SFA

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - You can get a plum just about anywhere - grocery stores, fruit stands, or a tree in your backyard, if you are so inclined.

But there is a new plum variety you will soon find at nurseries. It's called "Purple Pride," and it was developed right here in East Texas at Stephen F. Austin University.

Just like a family tree, real trees have interesting stories.

Back in the 90's, SFA students were caught grabbing fruit off a native Chickasaw plum tree. They were convinced to drop the pits off at the SFA Horticulture Greenhouse for future cultivation.

"And out of probably 500-600 seed we had a few of 'em show up with burgundy foliage," said Dr. David Creech, the associate director of the SFA Arboretum.

Better yet, the trees produced equally deep-colored fruit.

"It's the best fruit you ever ate," Creech said.

Something rare since most purple leaf plants don't bear fruit.

"We like the idea of purple, and it is a purple tree," Creech said. "We like the idea this is Stephen F. Austin State University, and it's Purple Pride, so it was kinda a logical name."

Researchers sought patent protection for the drought-resistant "Purple Pride." this week SFA Regents licensed a fourth nursery to grow and sell purple pride.

"Every tree that's sold we get a little bit of money that's plowed back into the program to find the next great tree," Creech said.

Bottom line: It's really marketing.

"It's all marketing," Creech said.

As a result, it's a tough row to hoe for Creech, whose roots go back to when things were free.

"I always felt it was part of our responsibility to create new plants, find new plants and distribute them gratis to the nursery and landscape industry," Creech said. "We're paid by the state, we're here to do research; we're here to find new plants."

Creech still enjoys giving plants away. He gifted Regent Brigettee Henderson with a Purple Pride last year.

"And it is just beautiful. It has almost tripled in size, and if I ever leave the home that we live in, I will definitely have to take that tree with me," Henderson said.

Purple Pride is another example that anything purple at SFA has a future.

The Purple Pride plum can already be found at some independent nurseries in Nacogdoches. Lowe's will be the largest distributor.

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