Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) is a close relative of a wide assortment of both wild and domestic plums, cherries, and peaches and is a native plant common in the Beverly Shores area. Considering the popularity of plums, cherries and peaches, it should not come as a surprise that wildlife love the fruit of choke cherry. For that reason, it also has the common name, Virginia bird cherry. Though very sour when picked, the berries can also be used in jams and jellies.
Chokecherry is a small tree or large shrub that has an elongated, spike-like cluster of white flowers in late spring. These develops into pea-sized fruit that ripens to dark purple or black in late summer. Autumn foliage turns golden yellow to orange. Chokecherry can reach a height of 20 to 30 feet. Not only a good food source for birds, it is host to many butterflies and moths.
Chokecherry is extremely shade tolerant and excellent for understory plantings. Though it prefers rich, medium to moist soil, it will tolerate dryer, well drained conditions as well as full sun. Because birds are so fond of the fruit, don’t plant chokecherry near patios or walks, as they may be quickly become stained.
For foliage color all season long, there is the horticultural variety, “Schubert” chokecherry. Schubert has purple foliage but is otherwise similar to the wild type.
Like many of our native shrubs, it will be more difficult to find choke cherry at the local nursery or home repair store. It can be ordered from a number of nurseries by catalog or on line. If you have questions about chokecherry or other native or non-native plants, don’t hesitate to contact Terry Bonace (firstname.lastname@example.org), Candice Smith (email@example.com), or Bill Schaudt (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance. Also please visit our website, www.bserg.org, for further information on invasive plants and native replacements.