- Prunus, from the Latin prunus, "plum tree".
- virginiana, from the Latin, "of Virginia"
- Chokecherry, from the astringent taste of the fruit
- Other common names include Western Chokecherry, Common Chokecherry,
- Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
- Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
- Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
- Subclass Rosidae, the Roses
- Order Rosales, the Roses
- Family Rosaceae, the Roses; with Amelanchier
(Juneberries), Aronia (Chokeberries), Crataegus
(Hawthorns), Malus (Apples), Physocarpus
(Ninebark), Potentilla (Cinquefoils), Rosa
(Roses), Rubus (Blackberries, Dewberries, and
Raspberries), Sorbus (Mountain Ash), and Spiraea
- Genus Prunus, the Cherries & Plums
- Taxonomic Serial Number: 24806
- Common Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana var. virginiana),
the eastern variety; occurs from Saskatchewan to Newfoundland south
to Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee and North Carolina.
- A ¼, ½, ¾, º, é
- Ovary superior (within blossom) inferior (below
- A native, deciduous, thicket-forming erect shrub or small tree.
- Leaves alternate with glands along the margins of
the leaf base or at the petiole apex.
- Stems numerous and slender, either branching from
the base or with main branches upright and spreading.
- Height varies considerably, ranging from 3'-20'.
- Roots a shallow network of rhizomes and a deep-feeding,
verticle network. Roots at intervals along the rhizomes.
- Flowers perfect, borne on leafy twigs of the season.
- Fruit a drupe, each containing a small stone.
- Leaf: Alternate, simple, oblong to nearly oval, finely serrated margin,
2 to 4 inches long, dark green above and paler below, minute glands
Flower: White, in a loose terminal raceme (3 to 6 inches long), appearing
after leaves from May to June.
Fruit: Dark red to purple drupe, 1/3 inch in diameter, maturing in
July to October.
Twig: Twigs slender, but stouter than black cherry, light brown to
gray, strong unpleasant odor when broken, buds are 1/3 inch long covered
with brownish scales.
Bark: Smooth, gray brown, conspicuous lenticels that develop into
shallow fissures, young stems have shallowly peeling, curling layers.
Form: Small, upright tree to 25 feet and 6 inches in diameter. It
often forms shrubby thickets.
- General - shrub or small tree, 1-6 m tall; bark smooth, reddish brown
to grey-brown, becomes dark with age, does not peel readily, with inconspicuous,
Choke Cherry Leaves - alternate; thin, elliptic to obovate, 2-10
cm long, sharp-pointed to rounded at tip, blunt at base; bright green
and hairless above, paler below; edges have fine, sharp teeth; stalks
have 2 or 3 prominent glands.
Flowers - in many-flowered, bottlebrush-like clusters 5-15 cm long
at ends of branches; flowers are white, 10-12 mm across; appearing
May to June.
Fruit - shiny, red, purple or black cherries, about 8 mm across,
edible but astringent; ripening in August and September.
Woods, clearings, hillsides and river terraces; often on dry and
exposed sites; widespread across NW Ontario's boreal region, north
and west to southern N.W.T. and northern B.C.
Distinguished from the Pin Cherry by the leaves. The Choke Cherry
has broader, egg-shaped leaves and dense, elongated, terminal flower
clusters. May also be mistaken for the Mountain Juneberry. Identification
can be made by observing the leafstalks; the Choke Cherry leaves have
glandular leafstalks while Mountain Juneberry leaves do not.
- Identifiable as
- Distinguished from
- Field Marks
- Alaska to Newfoundland,
- Throughout southern Canada and much of the US, from Newfoundland to
British Columbia and south to North Carolina, Missouri, Texas, and California.
- Although growing preferentially along streams, springs, and seeps,
where plants typically form dense thickets, chokecherry is generally
intolerant of poor drainage, prolonged spring flooding, or high water
- Except for heavy clay, is adapted to a wide range of soil textures,
but most sites are characterized by silty or sandy soils with good depth,
fertility, and drainage.
- Tolerant of moderately acidic (pH of 5.0), moderately basic, and weakly
- Successional on forested sites; plants are relatively short lived
and decline in vigor and numbers as the forest canopy closes. A dominant
understory component in Aspen (Populus
- Provides forage, wildlife habitat, watershed protection, and species
diversity. Forms open thickets that allow big game access to abundant
amounts of nutritious and relatively palatable browse.
- Well-adapted to disturbance by fire. Moderately resistant to fire
mortality, and, although easily top-killed, sprouts vigorously from
surviving root crowns and rhizomes following most fires.
- Vegetative reproduction represents the primary mode of postfire regeneration
in chokecherry. To a lesser degree, it also involves germination of
off-site seed dispersed by mammals and birds.
- Plant frequencies increase on most sites in response to fire.
- Trees: Quaking Aspen (Populus
- Ground Covers:
- Mammals: Although browsed year-round by deer, it
is used more intensely in spring and fall. Despite its deciduous nature,
it maintains relatively high nutrient levels throughout late fall and
winter. Fruits eaten by cottontail rabbit, least chipmunk, and black
- Gathered by indigenous peoples and used them to make pemican and treat
- Edible and, although somewhat astringent, relatively sweet when fully
ripe. Used to make wines, syrups, jellies, and jams.
- Sexually by seed
- Assexually by
- Reproduces by seed and vegetatively by rhizomes; vegetative expansion
via rhizomes is its primary method of regeneration.
- Seed crops typically regular and viable, with seed-producing capacity
higher in plants on open sites. Seeds are surrounded by a stoney endocarp
which may offer some resistance to germination but is permeable to moisture.
- An afterripening period in the presence of oxygen and moisture is
necessary for adequate germination. About half of unstratified seed
germinates within 60 days; delayed germination can occur up to 120 days
of sowing. Overall seed quality and germination are improved in seed
produced under optimal moisture conditions. Significantly enhanced germination
in seed ingested by black bears in Minnesota is attributed to acid and
mechanical scarification of seeds in the digestive tract.
- Although the majority seeds are deposited beneath parent plants, long-distance
dispersal undoubtedly occurs via birds and mammals.
- By seed, following cool, moist stratification of 120-160 days at 36º-41º
- Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
- Cultural Requirements
- Size 12"-18"W x 12"-18"H
- Growth rate
- Good for
- Cultivars include
- Cultivars and species available by mail order from specialty suppliers
or at local nurseries
- Widely used as ornamentals. Although producing an abundance of attractive
white flowers characterized by a strong, sweet, almondlike fragrance,
valued primarily for its fruit. Varieties producing bright red berries
are most preferred. Plantings are also useful in increasing habitat
and natural food supplies for birds frequenting residential areas.
- Susceptible to attack by the fungus Plowrightia stansburiana,
which causes knotlike cankers to develop on stems. This condition eventually
kills infected stems. Afflicted plants usually have a shortened life
- In the NE United States is a primary host of the eastern tent caterpillar.
Last updated on
31 August, 2004