Prunus virginiana

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Prunus virginiana
Prunus virginiana flowers.jpg
Prunus virginiana var. virginiana (eastern chokecherry) in bloom
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Species:
P. virginiana
Binomial name
Prunus virginiana
Prunus virginiana range map 1.png
Natural range

Chokecherries (Prunus virginiana), also known as the bitter-berry,[2] Virginia bird cherry,[3] and western chokecherry, are shrubs or small trees that are native to The United States, Canada, and some parts of Mexico. They grow to be around 4.9 m (16 ft 1 in).

Description[change | change source]

Chokecherry classifies as a suckering shrub or a tree. They grow quite tall, around 1 - 6 meters.

Their leaves are oval with coarse, sharp edges. The flowers grow about 38.1–76.2 cm (15–30 in) long in late spring (well after chokecherry leaves appear).

The fruits are about 1 cm (3⁄8 in) across. They range in color from bright red to black. They have a very astringent taste, both somewhat sour and somewhat bitter. The fruits are sweetest when they are very ripe "berries" (actually drupes). These are dark in color.

Characteristics[change | change source]

Chokecherries are very high in antioxidants, sharing this trait with chokeberries. This does contribute to confusion between the two.[4] The wild chokeberry is often considered a weed, since it hosts the tent caterpillar. This caterpillar eats tree leaves, robbing trees of energy and heightening the chance that they die. Often people enjoy the cultivars of the plant, such as "Canada Red" and "Schubert". Both have purple leaves when mature and "Goertz", another cultivar, has a palatable taste in it's fruit. The chokecherry is closely related to the well-known black cherry of eastern North America. The name chokecherry is also used for the related Manchurian cherry, or Amur chokeberry.

Food use[change | change source]

For many Native American tribes, chokecherries are very important and are part of pemmican, an Indian staple food. The bark of the root is used to ward off or treat colds, fevers and stomach maladies by Indians. It's also used in a ceremonial smoking mix known as kinnikinnick. The chokecherry fruit can be eaten when fully ripe, but if not, the fruit contains a toxin. It can also be used to make jam or syrup, with the use of sugar. The Plains Indians pound up the whole fruit in a mortar, from which they make cakes.

The stone of the fruit is poisonous. Chokecherry is toxic to most animals with segmented stomachs, especially after the leaves have wilted. This action produces cyanide, which is very toxic to most living things. It also makes the plant sweet, making farmer's lives harder by keeping their cows away from it. However, birds and game animals eat the berries when they're ripe. It's also used to craft wine in the Western United States.

Ecology[change | change source]

The plant does host many types of moths and butterflies.

References[change | change source]

  1. Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) & IUCN SSC Global Tree Specialist Group. 2018. Prunus virginiana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T64133468A135957714. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T64133468A135957714.en. Downloaded on 28 August 2021.
  2. "Prunus virginiana L. GRIN-Global". npgsweb.ars-grin.gov. Retrieved 2021-09-08.
  3. "Prunus virginiana L. GRIN-Global". npgsweb.ars-grin.gov. Retrieved 2021-09-08.
  4. "Prunus virginiana in Flora of North America @ efloras.org". www.efloras.org. Retrieved 2021-08-31.