What does a chokecherry bush look like?

How to Identify a Chokecherry Tree Easily

Chokecherry is a tree grown in different parts of North America and the berries of this tree are used for making jellies, jams and wine. But how to identify a chokecherry tree if you come across one? Just go through this article to know.

The chokecherry tree (Prunus virginiana) is found in parts of northern United States and Canada. If you’re looking for this particular tree, you are most likely to find it in certain areas such as banks of rivers and streams, edges of forests and in the countryside. The kernel of the chokecherry is rich in proteins thus this fruit formed an integral part of the staple diet of ancient Americans. The fruits of the chokecherry tree are a favorite among many species of animals such as the raccoon, bear, birds, etc. However, many people have the misconception that the shiny bright red fruits of this tree are poisonous.

Is identifying a chokecherry tree difficult? Well, not exactly but the truth is that the chokecherry tree bears at least some resemblance to many small trees that bear similar fruits. So, in order to learn how to identify the chokecherry tree, follow the pointers given below.

Chokecherry Tree Identification

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While you are on the lookout for the chokecherry tree, watch out for a tree with the following characteristics.

  • The height of the chokecherry tree is around 20-25 feet or 2-4 meters and its trunk is around 8 inches thick.
  • Chokecherry trees have an oval-shaped canopy.
  • Once you have found a tree that is similar to the description of the chokecherry in height, your next task would be to observe the leaves. Now if you are indeed looking at a chokecherry tree, you’d see that the leaves are alternately arranged and grayish green in color.
  • Each leaf is about 2 inches or 10 centimeters long and broad in the middle with a pointed tip and toothed edges. You can also find two glands at the leaf base at each node.
  • The chokecherry tree flowers during spring and flowers are white in color, forming clusters of around 20 flowers growing on a hanging raceme.
  • Each individual flower has five petals and is attached to the raceme by a pedicel that is a quarter of an inch long.
  • The fruit of the chokecherry is circular and looks like the cherry you find on cake toppings but is dark crimson to black in color. There can be as many as 20 fruits in a single cluster.
  • The fruits, rich in antioxidants, have a slightly bitter taste and each fruit has a single oval shaped seed inside it.
  • The bark of the tree is smooth and varies in color from reddish brown to gray. Sometimes, you may find shallow, fine ridges on the tree trunk, running parallel to the length of the trunk.
  • A characteristic feature of chokecherry trees and bushes is that they have smooth branches and you won’t find a single thorn on the body of the plant.

One example of a tree that appears similar to the chokecherry tree is the black cherry (Prunus serotina). It is different from the chokecherry in that its leaves are a darker shade of green, the fruits are bigger and the lenticels on the stem are more in number and hence, more closely packed. Rhamnus cathartica is another example of a plant that resembles the chokecherry. Generally known as the common buckthorn, this plant can appear similar from a distance but on close observation, you’ll find that there are stark differences between the two plants. The buckthorn has spines on its branches, the leaves are smooth and oval-shaped, the flowers are yellowish in color and the fruit contains 3 seeds in it.

That was all about the most distinct features of the chokecherry tree. Hope the given information proves useful and helps you in identifying the tree correctly. However, in order to make your task of identifying the chokecherry tree easier, you can look up pictures of the tree on the Internet. Have a happy time identifying trees!

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For the last month, I’ve been pining away for some wild chokecherry shrubs to harvest and make chokecherry jelly. Last year it seemed like everywhere we went, we spotted chokecherry shrubs along the road. They were all loaded down with ripe chokecherries just calling my name to harvest them. I figured that as often as we saw them on private property, it wouldn’t be that hard to find them on public lands. Well I was wrong! Last year we found one medium size chokecherry shrub to harvest and that was it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful for that one solo shrub, but I’m disappointed we didn’t find more considering the gazillions of chokecherries we saw on private lands!

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Last year we harvested enough chokecherries to make about half a dozen half pint jars of chokecherry jelly. Of all the jams and jellies I made last year, chokecherry was definitely my favorite. I even thought it was more delicious than our honey sweetened strawberry jam which used to be my favorite for years so this is a big deal! It turned out a beautiful rosy purple color. With the added honey to sweeten up the tartness that chokecherries are known for. it made the most delicious jelly (here’s our recipe for chokecherry jelly). I also read an article this winter that stated chokecherries are a natural source of vitamin C just like the elderberries we forage. This spring I promised myself I would find more wild chokecherries to harvest this season!

Chokecherry Identification

Like most wild edible berries, once you learn how to identify the plant it is quite easy to spot them all over. Chokecherry is a tall shrub with grayish to reddish colored bark with raised lines. The flowers are a creamy white color and hang in clusters best described by my wild edibles book as “forming bottlebrush like clusters” that are about 3″-6″ long.

The leaves are oblong with finely toothed edges.

The berries often look almost black from a distance but when you view them up close you can see they have a deep reddish purple color. The berries grow in a “bottlebrush” like cluster just like the flowers do. When I was first learning to identify chokecherries and elderberries, the formations of the berries on the stems was the easiest way for me to tell them apart (you can read more about identifying and foraging for elderberries in this post).

Chokecherry Foraging

After last year’s chokecherry search, I made a point this spring to seek out chokecherries in flower when we went adventuring in the mountains. I even made notes on a piece of scrap paper to write down where the chokecherry shrubs were so we could easily go back to harvest them later in the summer.

Then low and behold, last week we went on an evening drive in the mountains to explore a new area and spotted numerous chokecherry shrubs loaded down with deep red berries right along the dirt road on public lands! I was ecstatic! The only downside was that we didn’t have any berry buckets or bags with us to harvest any. We decided to drive back up there later in the week to harvest chokecherries and be more prepared with our berry picking gear!

I mentioned in the post on foraging for huckleberries that we invested in some berry rakes (you can find them here) a couple years ago. They work good for huckleberries but work even better for the chokecherries which are a little bigger and more firm than a huckleberry. It was amazing how many chokecherries we could harvest in a short amount of time with one of these handy gadgets!

I read in this book, my favorite wild edibles book, that chokecherries become sweeter after the first frost. When we harvested chokecherries last year it was just after the first frost. Last year I nibbled the flesh of the chokecherry when we were picking them and was pleasantly surprised by the taste. It wasn’t bitter at all and definitely didn’t make my mouth pucker like I’ve heard chokecherries can do (hence their name!). This year we picked chokecherries before the frost and they definitely have a bit more of a tart flavor than last year’s pickings. That just means I’ll have to add a little more honey to this year’s batch of chokecherry jelly!

My wild edibles book also notes that “All parts of the chokecherry (except the flesh of the fruit) contain the poison hydrocyanic acid.” By drying or cooking the chokecherry, the cyanide is destroyed. We don’t eat the chokecherries raw and I make a jelly with them instead of a jam. A jelly uses just the juice of the berries. When harvesting chokecherries with Little A, she knows not to eat them and I keep a close eye on her anytime we’re foraging. She helped us pick chokecherries last year and this year, although most of the chokecherries are up on high branches out of the reach of a little three year old!

Medicinal Uses for Chokecherry

For mother’s day this year, my husband gifted me this new medicinal plant book by Michael Moore. It was recommended by a local herbalist I took a class from last year. This book has a section on chokecherries, but it focuses on harvesting the bark for medicinal purposes and doesn’t focus much on the berries. It states that chokecherry bark can be used medicinally to treat and help soothe a cough. In the fall when we’re not at the height of gardening, foraging and canning season I hope to harvest some chokecherry bark and try out some of the medicinal recipes in my new book!

I just finished a big batch of my favorite chokecherry jelly. Here’s the recipe so you can make some too!

Chokecherry Planting Instructions: How To Use Chokecherries In The Landscape

A relative of willow, aspen, alder, ponderosa pine and snowberry, growing chokecherry trees are commonly found in the foothills and mountain canyons, at elevation of 4,900 to 10,200 feet and along streams or other damp areas. Let’s learn more about how to use chokecherries in the home landscape.

What is a Chokecherry?

So, what is a chokecherry? Growing chokecherry trees are large suckering shrubs (small trees) that are indigenous to the Southeastern United States but may be grown as a perennial landscape specimen elsewhere. Prunus viginiana can attain heights of up to 41 feet tall with a canopy of 28 feet across; of course, this is extremely rare and generally the plant can be maintained to a size of about 12 feet tall by 10 feet wide.

Chokecherry trees bear 3- to 6-inch long creamy white blooms, which become dark red fleshy fruit, maturing into a mature purple black with a pit in the center. This fruit is used to make jams, jellies, syrups and wines. The bark has at times been used to flavor cough syrups. Native Americans utilized the bark extract as a cure for diarrhea. Fruit from growing chokecherry trees was added to pemmican and used to treat canker sores and cold sores. Leaves and twigs were steeped to create a tea to ease colds and rheumatism while the wood of the chokecherry was made into arrows, bows and pipe stems.

How to Use Chokecherry in the Landscape

Chokecherry is commonly used as a windbreak on farms, riparian plantings, and for highway beautification. Due to its suckering habitat (and potential toxicity), care should be take when determining where to plant chokecherries. In the garden landscape, chokecherry may be utilized as a screen or in mass plantings, being aware of its propensity for suckering and multiplying.

Also, keep in mind that deer love to graze on chokecherry trees, so if you don’t want deer, you don’t want chokecherry trees.

As a landscape planting, you can grow and harvest chokecherry fruit in the fall; the later the reaping, the sweeter the fruit. Remove the toxic stems and leaves when cleaning the berries and do not crush the seeds when cooking or juice extracting. Thus, common sense would tell you not to put the berries in the blender!

Chokecherry fruit is a rich source of dietary fiber with 68 percent of the daily recommended allowance, 37 percent DRA of vitamin K, and a terrific source of manganese, potassium and vitamin B6 with just 158 calories per half cup.

Chokecherry Planting Instructions

Chokecherry shrubs grow most abundantly in moist soils but are adaptable to a variety of soil mediums in the soil pH arena of 5.0 to 8.0. Cold hardy to USDA zone 2, wind resistant, moderately drought and shade tolerant, chokecherry planting instructions are pretty minimal as it is not particularly picky about where it is situated.

That said, in nature, growing chokeberry trees are often found near water sources and will, thus, be most lush with adequate irrigation while full sun also promotes fruiting.

Additional Information on Growing Chokecherry Trees

In the wild, chokecherry is primarily noted for its role in providing habitat, as a valuable food source for wildlife and watershed protection. All parts of the growing chokecherry trees are eaten by large mammals such as bears, moose, coyotes, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, elk and deer. Birds munch on its fruit, and even domestic cattle and sheep browse on the chokecherry.

The leaves, stems and seeds contain a toxin, called hydrocyanic acid, which may rarely cause poisoning in domestic animals. Livestock must eat significant quantities of the toxic plant parts which do not normally occur except in times of drought/famine. Poisoning signs are distress, bluish tinge to the mouth, rapid breathing, salivation, muscle spasm, and finally coma and death.

Plant Database

Benefit

Use Ornamental: Blooms ornamental, Showy, Fruits ornamental, Erosion control, Understory tree
Use Wildlife: Blue-black edible cherries, makes good jelly. Important food for wildlife in July and August.
Chokecherry is moderately palatable to all classes of livestock, although it is more heavily browsed by domestic sheep than by cattle. It is a preferred mule deer browse on many winter ranges throughout the Intermountain West and Northern Great Plains.
Chokecherry is widely regarded as an important wildlife food plant and provides habitat, watershed protection, and species diversity. Fruits, leaves, and twigs are utilized. Large mammals including bears, moose, coyotes, bighorn sheep, pronghorn , elk , and deer use chokecherry as browse. Chokecherry is also a food source for small mammals. The fruits are important food for many birds. Cattle and domestic sheep also eat chokecherry, and because of its toxicity, poisoning sometimes occurs. Livestock normally do not eat fatal quantities except when other forage is scarce. (USDA Forest Service)
Use Medicinal: Native peoples and settlers used chokecherry bark and roots to make sedatives, blood-fortifying tonics, appetite stimulants and medicinal teas for treating coughs, tuberculosis, malaria, stomachaches and intestinal worms. (Kershaw)
Warning: New growth, wilted leaves, or plant parts that are injured by frost or drought are poisonous to cattle and humans. The toxin, hydrocyanic acid, is formed in the animals stomach. Hydrocyanic acid quickly affects animals and causes difficulty in breathing, slow pulse, dilated pupils, staggering and loss of consciousness before death. Chokecherry toxicity is highest during the spring and summer; however, leaves are non-toxic by the time fruits mature. (Rangeland Ecosystems)
Children have been poisoned and have died after ingesting large quantities of berries, which contain the seeds. (Canadian Biodiversity Poisonous Plants)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Columbia silkmoth

Flower:

Numerous nodding, cylindrical racemes 2 to 4 inches long, at the tips and small lateral shoots of branches, each with 20 to 50 short-stalked flowers. Flowers are about 1/3 inch across with 5 white, round petals, an orange-yellow center with a ring of yellow tipped stamens around a single central style. The 5 sepals are 1/3 or less the length of the petals, oblong to triangular, with glands or glandular serrations along the edges. Flower stalks are slender and hairless.

Leaves and stems:

Leaves are simple and alternate, 2½ to 4 inches long and to 1 to 2 1/3 inches wide, abruptly tapered to a sharp point, rounded at the base, on a 1/3 to ¾ inch stalk with 1 to several glands near the blade. The blade shape is generally oval but widest at or above the middle. The upper surface is dark green and glossy, the lower surface lighter and mostly smooth or with white or yellowish hairs in the axils of the lateral veins. Edges are finely serrated with sharp teeth.

Twigs are reddish brown to brown or gray, smooth or occasionally finely hairy. Bud scales are reddish brown with pale edging.

Bark is brownish gray to gray, smooth with pale horizontal lenticels, becoming roughish on older trunks. Branches are ascending to widely spreading , the trunk is typically short and rarely over 5 inches in diameter at breast height. It can sucker heavily from its roots creating dense, clonal thickets.

Fruit:

Fruit is a shiny, round drupe, reddish purple to nearly black, around 1/3 inch in diameter and a single hard seed inside. The sepals wither away as fruit develops and are not persistent.

Notes:

Chokecherry is one of the most common and ubiquetous trees/shrubs in North America. It is broadly adapted, inhabiting forestlands, prairie margins and mid-alpine regions. While its fruit is known to contain high concentrations of hydrogen cyanide, mostly in the seed, it is highly favored by birds who help spread it into human landscapes where it readily establishes. While there are several horticultural varieties selected for their dark purple summer leaves, its tendency to root sucker as well as its high susceptability to the fungal disease black knot that can severaly disfigure its branches and form have limited its use in urban landscapes. Chokecherry may be confused with a small Black Cherry tree (Prunus serotina), which has similar cylindrical flower clusters but grows well over 50 feet tall, has proportionately narrower leaves, sepals that persist in fruit, rusty colored hairs along the leaf midvien near the base, and older trees with bark having coarse, scaly plates. Common Buckthorn is also sometimes mistaken for a Prunus species. Some references list multiple variations of P. virginiana but they are not recognized in Minnesota.

Plant Finder

Canada Red Chokecherry

Canada Red Chokecherry

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Canada Red Chokecherry flowers

Canada Red Chokecherry flowers

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 25 feet

Spread: 20 feet

Sunlight:

Hardiness Zone: 2a

Other Names: Common Chokecherry

Description:

Can be grown as a single or multi stemmed small tree or large shrub; lovely hanging clusters of white blooms in spring are followed by rich purple foliage and dark fruit in summer; suckers will need to be controlled

Ornamental Features

Canada Red Chokecherry features showy chains of fragrant white flowers hanging below the branches in mid spring. It has attractive deep purple foliage which emerges green in spring. The oval leaves are highly ornamental and turn an outstanding red in the fall. The fruits are showy red drupes with purple overtones, which are carried in abundance in mid summer.

This plant is primarily grown as an ornamental, but it’s also valued for its edible qualities. The small round tart fruit is most often used in the following ways:

  • Baking
  • Preserves
  • Wine-Making
  • Sauces

Landscape Attributes

Canada Red Chokecherry is a deciduous tree with a more or less rounded form. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

This is a high maintenance tree that will require regular care and upkeep, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. It is a good choice for attracting birds to your yard. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration;

  • Suckering
  • Disease

Canada Red Chokecherry is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Shade

Planting & Growing

Canada Red Chokecherry will grow to be about 25 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 20 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 4 feet from the ground, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 40 years or more. This is a self-pollinating variety, so it doesn’t require a second plant nearby to set fruit.

This tree should only be grown in full sunlight. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selection of a native North American species.

Canada Red Select Chokecherry

Canada Red Select Chokecherry

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 20 feet

Spread: 15 feet

Sunlight:

Hardiness Zone: 2a

Other Names: Common Chokecherry

Description:

A vigorous and hardier form of Canada Red chokecherry; foliage is a darker reddish purple with a thicker leaf texture; also known for its straight trunk and more uniform top; must have good drainage and aeration

Ornamental Features

Canada Red Select Chokecherry features showy chains of fragrant white flowers hanging below the branches in mid spring. It has attractive deep purple foliage which emerges green in spring. The oval leaves are highly ornamental and turn an outstanding red in the fall. The fruits are showy dark red drupes with black overtones, which are carried in abundance in mid summer.

Landscape Attributes

Canada Red Select Chokecherry is a deciduous tree with a more or less rounded form. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

This is a high maintenance tree that will require regular care and upkeep, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. It is a good choice for attracting birds to your yard. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration;

  • Suckering
  • Disease

Canada Red Select Chokecherry is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Shade

Planting & Growing

Canada Red Select Chokecherry will grow to be about 20 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 15 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 4 feet from the ground, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 40 years or more. This is a self-pollinating variety, so it doesn’t require a second plant nearby to set fruit.

This tree should only be grown in full sunlight. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selection of a native North American species.

Black Chokeberry

Black Chokeberry – Aronia Melanocarpa For Sale Affordable, Grower Direct Prices Tennessee Wholesale Nursery

Black Chokeberry plant lovers who are interested in planting Black Chokeberry to enhance one’s landscape, here are some essential things to know when considering these flowery shrubs.

The Black Chokeberry is an adaptable durable shrub that is native to Minnesota. The Black Chokeberry thrives in both Fall and Spring seasons, with an explosion of black fruit in the fall, mature height is 3 to 8 feet and a width of 2 to 6 feet. Black Chokeberry shrubs include dark green, fine-toothed leaves of 1-3″, along with white, five-petaled flowers with showy pink flowers.

Buy Fast Growing Black Chokeberry

With a species name of melanocarpa, it bears black fruits, and features white flowers as well as red fall foliage. Black chokeberry is a tough shrub that has a broad tolerance to some soil densities, textures, moisture conditions, and pH levels. It spreads to form a round shape. This shrub grows well in wet and dry locations and in areas where the soil is acidic or alkaline. It thrives well in areas whose soil texture is sandy, loam or clay. It also does well in soil with a pH of 5.1 – 6.5, but it can tolerate higher values. The black chokeberry’s growth speed can be described as slow to fast, depending on the prevailing environmental factors.

Affordable Black Chokeberry For Every Landscape

In early spring, the shrub has a showy display of white flowers in clusters referred to as corymbs. As the season advances, the leaves change to a deep and glossy green, which makes the shrub brighten as well as increase its appeal during the summer’s dog days. From mid to the end of summer, the berries start developing, and within two weeks, the branches are overwhelmed with the fruit clusters. This makes the shrub acquire a purplish black appearance and the 1/3 – ½ inch berries continue developing until January. At this time, they are usually unappetizing to birds. Black chokeberry bush can be a great addition to your Landscape gardens with careful attention. The shrub can be grown in the garden to attract bees and birds to it. It can also be built in the garden to act as a windbreaker. Black Chokeberry

Black Chokeberry Bush

The Black Chokeberry Bush is small in size and can be viewed as a shrub. The shape of the bush resembles a mound that sits upon a short stem. During the spring months, the shrub begins growing white flowers that will turn brighter in the summer months. Blackberries also begin growing on the bush during the summer. Once the growing season is over, you’ll see that the green leaves turn to red or dark purple.

You’ll usually see the bush growing more in the Chicago area and other northern locations as it tends to thrive in colder environments. Heights can reach about five feet once the shrub has reached maturity. It grows well in full sunlight. The shrub tends to be seen growing best in zones three to eight. It enjoys being in moist soil, and that is slightly acidic. Although the shrub can grow well in areas where there isn’t a lot of moisture, it develops darker colors and larger berries in areas where there is more rain. The Black Chokeberry Bush is usually a food source for birds and small animals. It can also provide shade for small animals that seek shelter under its branches.

Black Chokeberry For Sale Affordable At Tennessee Wholesale

Black Chokeberry Shrub makes a great addition to any gardening plan. It can grow in full sunlight, but it is relatively tolerant of shade. The chokeberry is indigenous to eastern North America where it can be found growing in damp woodlands and swamps. It grows well in moist, well-drained soils but has been known to acclimate itself to arid, sandy sites. The black chokeberry is a member of the rose family with the Latin name Aronia melanocarpa. It is cold hardy as far north as USDA Zone 3 and heat tolerant as far south as Zone 8. The shrub usually matures in 5 years and grows from 3 to 6 feet tall. It has something to offer for every season. In the spring, small white flowers form 2 inch clusters that attract bees. The leaves are glossy green in the summer as the fruit starts to form. In the fall the foliage turns a colorful red color with juicy, purplish-black fruit. As a deciduous shrub, it loses its leaves in the winter.

Buy Black chokeberry From A Trusted Nursery Tennessee Wholesale

Prairie chickens, ruffed grouse, and sharp-tailed grouse consume the fruit. Humans can eat the berries directly off the bush, but they are astringent which may make your mouth pucker. The fruit is more commonly used in jam, jelly, wine, syrup, tea, and other food products.

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This shrub will not only give your beauty during the Spring and Summer but during Fall and Autumn, you get to enjoy the mixture of red and yellow leaves. This plant also makes people fall in love with the deep dark purple berries this shrub will produce. The bush gets the perfect height of an average 4 – 5 feet, just right to go along the fence line and not too full on average this shrub is 3 – 4 feet wide. Even though this shrub is a slower grower, it’s worth the wait.

Black Chokeberry Ships As – Bare Root

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