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Canada Red Choke Cherry

Scientific name: Prunus Virginiana

Description:  Chokecherry is a perennial, deciduous, woody, thicket-forming large erect shrub or small tree. It rarely reaches a height of over 30 feet.  The crown is irregular and from 10 to 20 feet wide when mature.  The stems are numerous and slender.  Reproduction can either be by seed or root rhizomes.  The fruit has long been favoured for use in jellies, syrups, sauces, jams and wine. Currently, the chokecherry is becoming more widely used in multiple-row shelterbelts, as an ornamental, for wildlife habitat improvement, and for reclamation and rehabilitation (especially for slope stabilization and erosion control).

CAUTION: PARTS OF THIS PLANT CAN BE POISONOUS: The seeds are toxic due to production of hydrocyanic acid in the leaves, stems and seeds.  The almond-like nuts are treated to deactivate the poisonous glycosides before they are put on the market.  Cases of illness and deaths especially in livestock have been traced back to eating the seeds of these trees.

Chokecherry Tree

Chokecherry Tree

Leaf: Alternate, simple, oblong to nearly oval, 2 to 4 inches long, finely serrated margin. Leaves emerge green, turn purple in the summer.

Flower: White, in a loose 3 to 6 inches long terminal raceme, appearing after leaves.

Fruit: Dark red to purple drupe, 1/3 inch in diameter, maturing in late summer.

Twigs: 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.

Chokecherry bloom

Chokecherry bloom

Form: Small, upright tree to 25 -30 feet and 6 inches in diameter, often forming shrubby thickets.

Elevation: 4,900 – 10,200 ft

Hardiness Zones:  Zones 2-10 (Canada, much of the United States, Northern Mexico).

Soils: Recommended pH of 5.0 to 8.0.

Management/Care:  Although winter hardy and drought-tolerant in full sun and well-drained soil, chokecherries often succumb to black knot fungus.   Suckers are best removed in early spring or late fall when the plants are dormant.

Chokecherry leaves and young fruit

Chokecherry leaves and young fruit

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