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Chokecherry, Western Chokecherry, Black Chokecherry - Prunus virginiana


Family: Rosaceae - Rose family Genus Common Name: Plum Native Status: Native
Prunus virginiana - Chokecherry, Western Chokecherry, Black Chokecherry. There are three varieties of Prunus virginiana in the United States - P. Virginia var. virginiana (Common Chokecherry) is found in the eastern part of the country, and both P. virginiana var. melanocarpa (Black Chokecherry) and P. virginiana var. demissa (Western Chokecherry) are found in the western part. One variety or another is found in every state except Louisiana, Alabana, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, and Hawaii. Chokecherry is also found in most Canadian provinces.

There are minor differences between the varieties. Among other differences, var. melanocarpa has black fruit while the others have red or purple fruit. The fruit is edible, but use caution as with many drupes (fruits with skin, pulp, and hard middle seed) the pit can be poisonous if consumed in large enough quantities (note that this is also true of peach, cherry, and plum pits,) and children have reportedly died from eating a large quantity of chokecherries with pits.

My initial identification of this plant was made using Idaho Mountain Wildflowers .

Although it is a useful wildlife food, it is considered weedy or invasive in the Northeast by some authorities, so use some discrimination in determining whether to propagate the plant.

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Prunus virginiana

Distribution of Prunus virginiana in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 26 Apr 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Boise National Forest, Ada County, ID Date: 2010-June-15Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Based on the location (Ada County, Idaho) this is Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa. The flowers have 5 white petals attached to 5 greenish sepals with a yellow center. The flower has a number of stamens extending above the flower. The fragrant cluster is more or less cylindrical.
Prunus virginiana

Site: Boise National Forest, Ada County, ID Date: 2010-June-15Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D60
Chokecherry has lanceolate, serrated leaves. The western varieties are shrubs that may rarely grow as tall as 20 feet; the eastern variety can be a small tree.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Prunus virginiana

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer