Prunus virginiana (Black Chokecherry, Black Choke cherry) is a deciduous shrub or small tree native to North America. It is a member of the Rosaceae family and is primarily valued for its ornamental qualities, wildlife habitat benefits, and, in some cases, its fruit. Here are some key characteristics of Prunus virginiana:
Size and Growth Habit: Black Chokecherry typically grows as a shrub or small tree, reaching heights of 1.5 to 6 meters (5 to 20 feet) tall. The growth habit can vary from dense, multi-stemmed shrubs to single-stemmed trees with a rounded crown.
Leaves: The leaves of Black Chokecherry are simple, alternate, and elliptical to lanceolate in shape. They have serrated margins and a dark green color. In the fall, the leaves often turn shades of red, orange, or purple, providing attractive autumn foliage.
Flowers: Black Chokecherry produces clusters of small white flowers. The flowers have five petals and a distinct fragrance. They bloom in spring, typically from late April to early June, attracting pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
Fruit: The fruit of Black Chokecherry is a small, round drupe that is initially green and then turns dark purple to black when ripe. The fruit is astringent and tart, making it unpalatable when eaten fresh. However, it is sometimes used to make jellies, jams, syrups, and wines. The fruit is also an important food source for birds and wildlife.
Bark and Wood: The bark of Black Chokecherry is dark gray to blackish and becomes rough and scaly with age. The wood is not commonly used commercially due to its small size and relatively low value.
Wildlife Benefits: Black Chokecherry provides important habitat and food sources for various wildlife species. The fruit is eagerly consumed by birds, including grouse, songbirds, and game birds, as well as small mammals. The dense foliage and branching structure of the shrub/tree offer nesting sites and cover for birds and other animals.