[Cherries and Wild Cherries: The Genus Prunus East of the Cascade Mts. of Oregon and Washington]

Chokecherry, Choke Cherry, Common Chokecherry

Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa

Synonyms: Cerasus demissa var. melanocarpa, Padus melanocarpa, Padus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. nuttallii, Prunus melanocarpa, Prunus pinetorum, Prunus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa

Raceme of Choke Cherry, Common Chokecherry: Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa (Synonyms: Cerasus demissa var. melanocarpa, Padus melanocarpa, Padus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. nuttallii, Prunus melanocarpa, Prunus pinetorum, Prunus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa)

The photo above shows a close-up of a raceme of chokecherry (var. melanocarpa) as seen in scablands along the old state highway about 2 miles west of Fishtrap Lake in eastern Washington.........June 2, 2008.

Characteristics:

Chokecherry is an erect shrub or small tree from 1-4 meters high. The bark is purplish-gray and the younger twigs are reddish-brown. The bark lacks lenticels. The leaves are alternate on the stems with elliptic, oblong-ovate, or obovate blades from 4-10 cm long and petioles 5-15 mm long (with 2 glands below the leaf base). The tip of the blade is pointed while the base is rounded. The margins are finely toothed. The upper leaf surface is a shiny dark green while the lower surface is pale green.

The inflorescence is a terminal, elongated raceme of many flowers. The calyx of each flower is smooth surfaced with spreading or recurved lobes which are oval in shape and 1-1.5 mm long. Each of the 5 petals is suborbicular and 4-6 mm in length. There are approximately 25 stamens. The fruit is a red, purple, or black drupe which is ovoid in shape, 8-11 mm long, and sweet but astringent.
Importance:

The fruits may be used for jellies, syrups, and wines. They were used fresh or dried and mixed in a pemmican for winter food by the Nez Perce. The bark was also used as a tea to relieve diarrhea and stomach ailments. The leaves, pits, and succulent shoots have high levels of cyanide while the pulp of the fruit is safe to eat. The cyanide levels can be lowered by drying and cooking. The leaves and twigs are a key mule deer browse, and the fruits are used by grouse, magpies, rabbits, and bears.


Habitat:

Chokecherry may be found from seacoast headlands to open forests to arid sagebrush-grasslands. Within those habitats, it likes some moisture, so is often found near seeps or springs, or along streams.


Range:

Chokecherry may be found from British Columbia south to California and east to Newfoundland, the Dakotas, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and North Carolina.


Upper leaf surface of Choke Cherry, Common Chokecherry: Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa (Synonyms: Cerasus demissa var. melanocarpa, Padus melanocarpa, Padus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. nuttallii, Prunus melanocarpa, Prunus pinetorum, Prunus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa) - Lower leaf surface of Choke Cherry, Common Chokecherry: Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa (Synonyms: Cerasus demissa var. melanocarpa, Padus melanocarpa, Padus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. nuttallii, Prunus melanocarpa, Prunus pinetorum, Prunus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa)

The 2 photos above show close-up views of the dorsal leaf (left) and ventral leaf (right) surfaces of choke cherry (var. melanocarpa) as seen in scablands along the old state highway about 2 miles west of Fishtrap Lake in eastern Washington........June 2, 2008.

Choke Cherry, Common Chokecherry: Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa (Synonyms: Cerasus demissa var. melanocarpa, Padus melanocarpa, Padus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. nuttallii, Prunus melanocarpa, Prunus pinetorum, Prunus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa)

The photo above shows choke cherry (var. melanocarpa) as seen in scablands along the old state highway about 2 miles west of Fishtrap Lake in eastern Washington........June 2, 2008.

Choke Cherry, Common Chokecherry: Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa (Synonyms: Cerasus demissa var. melanocarpa, Padus melanocarpa, Padus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. nuttallii, Prunus melanocarpa, Prunus pinetorum, Prunus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa) - Choke Cherry, Common Chokecherry: Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa (Synonyms: Cerasus demissa var. melanocarpa, Padus melanocarpa, Padus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. nuttallii, Prunus melanocarpa, Prunus pinetorum, Prunus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa)

Choke cherry blooming along the eastern boundary of Fields Springs State Park, about one quarter of a mile south of the campground. Asotin County, Washington..........June 11, 2013.

Choke Cherry, Common Chokecherry: Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa (Synonyms: Cerasus demissa var. melanocarpa, Padus melanocarpa, Padus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. nuttallii, Prunus melanocarpa, Prunus pinetorum, Prunus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa)

Chokecherry in bloom at the Hells Canyon Overlook, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area......June 11, 2018.

Flower buds of Choke Cherry, Common Chokecherry: Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa (Synonyms: Cerasus demissa var. melanocarpa, Padus melanocarpa, Padus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. nuttallii, Prunus melanocarpa, Prunus pinetorum, Prunus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa)

Choke cherry with flower buds as seen along Forest Road 2901 about 3-4 miles uphill from Oregon Highway 31, Fremont-Winema National Forest.......April 30, 2017.

Choke Cherry, Common Chokecherry: Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa (Synonyms: Cerasus demissa var. melanocarpa, Padus melanocarpa, Padus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. nuttallii, Prunus melanocarpa, Prunus pinetorum, Prunus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa) - Choke Cherry, Common Chokecherry: Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa (Synonyms: Cerasus demissa var. melanocarpa, Padus melanocarpa, Padus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. melanocarpa, Prunus demissa var. nuttallii, Prunus melanocarpa, Prunus pinetorum, Prunus virginiana ssp. melanocarpa)

Colorful fall foliage of chokecherry as seen along the Ochoco Mt. Trail #283 along Rock Creek about two miles downstream from the trailhead, Ochoco National Forest..........September 27, 2016.

Paul Slichter