AskDefine | Define chokecherry

Dictionary Definition



1 the fruit of the chokecherry tree
2 a common wild cherry of eastern North America having small bitter black berries favored by birds [syn: chokecherry tree, Prunus virginiana]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of several American wild cherry trees, especially Prunus virginiana
  2. The fruit of this plant


  • 1981 Bradford Angier - Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants
    The youngster-loved chokecherry grows both as a bushy shrub and as a tree seldom higher than 22 feet, its branches bending with clusters of darkening red or blackish purple berrylike drupes . . .

Extensive Definition

The Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) is a species of bird cherry (Prunus subgenus Padus) native to North America, where it is found almost throughout the continent except for the deep south and the far north. It is a suckering shrub or small tree growing to 5 m tall. The leaves are oval, 3-10 cm long, with a coarsely serrated margin. The flowers are produced in racemes of 15-30 in late spring (well after leaf emergence). The fruit are about 1 cm diameter, bright red, with a very astringent, sour taste. Like chokeberries, chokecherries are very high in antioxidant pigment compounds, like anthocyanins.
There are two varieties:
  • Common Chokecherry Prunus virginiana var. virginiana. Eastern North America. Leaves hairless underneath or downy only in the vein axils.
  • Western Chokecherry Prunus virginiana var. demissa. Western North America. Leaves downy underneath.
The wild Chokecherry is often considered a pest, as it is a host for the tent caterpillar, a threat to other fruit plants. However, there are more appreciated cultivars of the chokecherry, such as 'Goertz', which has a non-astringent, and therefore palatable, fruit. Research is being done at the University of Saskatchewan to find and create new cultivars to increase production and processing
Chokecherry is closely related to the Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) of eastern North America; it is most readily distinguished from that by its smaller size (Black Cherry can reach 30 m tall), smaller leaves, and red (not black) ripe fruit.
The name chokecherry has also been used (as 'Amur Chokecherry') for the related Manchurian Cherry or Amur Cherry (Prunus maackii).
Chokecherry is toxic to horses, especially after the leaves have wilted (such as after a frost or after branches have been broken) because wilting releases cyanide and makes the plant sweet. About 5-10 kg of foliage can be fatal. Symptoms of a horse that has been poisoned include heavy breathing, agitation, and weakness. The leaves of the chokecherry serve as food for caterpillars of various Lepidoptera. See List of Lepidoptera which feed on Prunus.
The chokeberries, genus Aronia, are often mistakenly called chokecherries . This naming confusion is easy to understand considering there is a cultivar of the chokecherry Prunus virginiana 'Melanocarpa',, and a species of chokeberry named Aronia melanocarpa

See also

chokecherry in Spanish: Prunus virginiana
chokecherry in French: Cerisier de Virginie
chokecherry in Quechua: Kapuli
chokecherry in Swedish: Virginiahägg
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