Prunus virginiana (Chokecherry)
|Also known as:|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade, sun; open woods, forest edges and openings, fencerows, riverbanks, roadsides|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||10 to 25 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.
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.
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.
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.
Please visit our sponsors
Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- young Chokecherry shrub
- mature Chokecherry shrub
- Chokecherry leaves with Common Buckthorn
- bark of young Chokecherry shrub
- a pollinator
- black knot fungus
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?