Common Choke Cherry

Common Choke Cherry Prunus virginianaThe choke cherry (Prunus virginiana) is a small tree with frequently crooked or inclined trunk and a narrow, open, slender-branched head.  It is found over most of the state at the edge of woods, in fence rows and waste places.  It is a beautiful tree when in flower in the spring, and is a valuable wildlife tree.

Habitat: Grows in woodland edges, fence rows, rocky bluffs, also in the open woods. Found throughout the state.

Hardiness: Zones 3 through 10

common choke cherry leaves
Common Choke Cherry Leaves - Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University

Growth Rate: Moderate to Fast

Mature Shape: Varies by species

Height: 20-30 feet 

Width: 15-25 feet 

Site Requirements: Adaptable but prefers moist, well-drained soils.  In the right conditions, it will grow like a weed. Withstands heavy pruning and prefers full sun to partial shade.

Leaves: Alternate, simple, lobed; lobes with rounded tips

Flowering Dates: May

Seed Dispersal Dates: July - September

Seed Bearing Age: 15-20 years

Seed Bearing Frequency: Yearly

Seed Stratification: Prechill for 4-5 months at 34°F to 40°F

The thin leaves are dark green and shiny above, pale and dull beneath.  The leaf is finely toothed with outward curved teeth.  It is oval and quite broad, and narrow toward the base.

The stout twigs are aromatic and bitter, light brown to dark red-brown and marked with large, oblong white spots.  On older stems it becomes dark gray, slightly roughened or scaly and matted.

The small, fleshy and cherry like fruit is found on short stems in clusters similar to grapes. It is nearly black and is edible when ripe.   On young stems, the bark is smooth and gray.

Diseases that Can Affect Common Choke Cherry

Insects that Can Affect Common Choke Cherry

common choke cherry twigs
Common Choke Cherry Twigs - Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University

common choke cherry berries
Common Choke Cherry Fruit - Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University

common choke cherry small white flowers
Common Choke Cherry Flowers - Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University