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Choke Cherry
Prunus virginiana var. virginiana (Eastern chokecherry) in bloom
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Subgenus: Padus[1]
Species: P. virginiana
Binomial name
Prunus virginiana

The Choke Cherry (Prunus virginiana) is a species of bird cherry (Prunus subgenus Padus) native to North America, where it is found almost throughout the continent except for the deep south and the far north.



It is a suckering shrub or small tree growing to 5 m tall. The leaves are oval, 3-10 cm long, with a coarsely serrated margin. The flowers are produced in racemes of 15-30 in late spring (well after leaf emergence). The fruit are about 1 cm diameter, range in color from bright red to black, with a very astringent, sour taste. The very ripe berries are dark in color and less astringent than the red berries.


The chokeberries, genus Aronia, are often mistakenly called chokecherries. This naming confusion is easy to understand considering there is a cultivar of the chokecherry Prunus virginiana 'Melanocarpa'[2][3] and a species of chokeberry named Aronia melanocarpa.[4] In fact, the two plants are not close relatives.


Chokecherries are very high in antioxidant pigment compounds, like anthocyanins. They share this property with chokeberries, further contributing to confusion.


Prunus virginiana is sometimes divided into two varieties, P. virginiana var. virginiana (the eastern chokecherry), and P. virginiana var. demissa (the western chokecherry)[5].

Chokecherry - habit

The wild Chokecherry is often considered a pest, as it is a host for the tent caterpillar, a threat to other fruit plants. However, there are more appreciated cultivars of the chokecherry, such as 'Goertz', which has a non-astringent, and therefore palatable, fruit. Research is being done at the University of Saskatchewan to find and create new cultivars to increase production and processing.[6]

leaf of Saskatchewan plant.

Chokecherry is closely related to the Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) of eastern North America; it is most readily distinguished from that by its smaller size (Black Cherry can reach 30 m tall), smaller leaves, and sometimes red ripe fruit. The Chokecherry leaf has a finely serrated margin and is dark green above with a paler underside, while the Black Cherry leaf has numerous blunt edges along its margin and is dark green and smooth.[7][8]

The name chokecherry has also been used (as 'Amur Chokecherry') for the related Manchurian Cherry or Amur Cherry (Prunus maackii).

The bark of chokecherry root was once made into an asperous-tasting concoction used to ward off or treat colds, fever and stomach maladies by native Americans[9] The chokecherry fruit can be used to make a tasty jam, jelly, or syrup, but the bitter nature of the fruit means you need a lot of sugar to sweeten the preserves.

Chokecherry is toxic to horses, especially after the leaves have wilted (such as after a frost or after branches have been broken) because wilting releases cyanide and makes the plant sweet. About 5-10 kg of foliage can be fatal. Symptoms of a horse that has been poisoned include heavy breathing, agitation, and weakness. The leaves of the chokecherry serve as food for caterpillars of various Lepidoptera. See List of Lepidoptera which feed on Prunus.

In 2007, Governor John Hoeven signed a bill naming the chokecherry the official fruit of the State of North Dakota.


  1. ^ Rehder, A. 1940, reprinted 1977. Manual of cultivated trees and shrubs hardy in North America exclusive of the subtropical and warmer temperate regions. Macmillan publishing Co., Inc, New York.
  2. ^ Prunus virginiana--Chokecherry, Michigan State University
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Farrar, J.L. 1995. Trees in Canada. Canadian Forest Service and Fitzhenry and Whiteside Limited, Markham.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Edible Wild Plants A North American Field Guide, Thomas S. Elias, Peter A. Dykeman, Sterling Publishing Company Inc., New York, NY, 1990. isbn:0-8069-7488-5
  8. ^
  9. ^ pg. 81, Trees of Michigan and the Upper Great Lakes 6th edition, Norman F. Smith, Thunder Bay Press, 2002


See also

External links



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Prunus virginiana


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids I
Ordo: Rosales
Familia: Rosaceae
Subfamilia: Prunoideae
Genus: Prunus
Subgenus: P. subg. Cerasus
Sectio: P. sect. Laurocerasus
Species: Prunus virginiana
Varieties: P. v. var. demissa - P. v. var. melanocarpa - P. v. var. virginiana


Prunus virginiana L.


  • Species Plantarum 1:473. 1753
  • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. [1]

Vernacular names

Svenska: Virginiahägg
Українська: Черемха вірджинська
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Prunus virginiana on Wikimedia Commons.


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