Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana),  with its polished red fruit looks delectable, but like the name forewarns, has a decidedly astringent taste. I admire and love the dark crimson color against the green leaves. As a child, I was always attracted to their inviting color, but warned strongly against sampling any. Once mischievously, I ate one anyway and quickly spat it out – lesson learned!

IMG_0839Chokecherries, both flowers and leaves, are an important food source for moths and butterflies, including Cecropia, Io and Sphinx Hawk moths, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and American White Admiral butterflies, as well as the dreaded Tent Caterpillar, which can spread to domesticated fruit crops. (You can see munched leaves in the above photo).

Birds enjoy the fruit and likely rodents do as well, once it falls to the ground. Along with its cousin, Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), rodents will cache the stone pits to eat through the winter.

Jams and jellies can be made from the ripest fruit, but only with lots of added sugar. For me, it’s enough to enjoy them from afar and leave them for the wildlife.



About Eliza Waters

Gardener, writer, photographer, naturalist
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19 Responses to Chokecherry

  1. good point to admire these from afar 🙂 I have always loved the contrast between the red and the green.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      You must love Christmas! 🙂

      • I do! Something about those contrasting colors awakens something in us, I think.

      • Eliza Waters says:

        I just looked up those colors:
        “Red is the color of energy, passion, action, ambition and determination. It is also the color of anger and sexual passion.
        Green is the color of balance and growth. It can mean both self-reliance as a positive and possessiveness as a negative, among many other meanings.”
        Now isn’t that interesting?! Sounds like you: energetic, passionate, keeping balance while growing forward! 🙂

  2. Kate Houck says:

    Fascinating and informative. Thanks, Eliza! Are these also called sour cherries? I think they are often used to make juice and jam in other countries (with a lot of sugar added…as you said 🙂 )

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks, Kate. Sour cherries are Prunus cerasus, native to Europe and Asia Minor. Not as tart as chokecherry, but still requiring a lot of sweetening!

  3. dorannrule says:

    How beautiful they are and I can understand why you enjoy them so. 🙂 Lovely pictures.

  4. Beautiful photos! Recently we heard a speaker talk about the Black Cherry as THE most valuable native tree for the widest variety of wildlife. We don’t have one, but will consider planting one, despite the inevitable leaf munching. I grew “Nanking Cherry” in our last garden, which looked similiar. Always happy to see the fruits, but never used them- left them for the birds. What a great post 😉 Best wishes, WG

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth. If you want, I can send you a bunch of P.serotina seeds come Sept. They spout quite easily and grow rapidly. We have a lot on our property – the wood is so pretty and of course, they are a favorite with the wild life.

  5. mk says:

    These are definitely a “come hither” kind of fruit. So cheerful!

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  8. gaiainaction says:

    Very interesting and yes beautiful colour combination.

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