Choke Cherry

(Prunus virginiana)

Other Names:
Bitter-berry, or Virginia bird cherry


Rosaceae – Rose family

Growth Type:
A large bush or small tree

Can grow up to 15ft tall

Oval, 1½ - 2½ long, and have edges that are finely and sharply serrated, and typically sharp pointed at the tip. The leaves are dull green on top and lighter grayish green underneath. The petioles are usually ¾ to 1¼ inches long and bear two glands near the base of the leaf

The bark ranges in color from red to redish gray. Small whitish eyes will typically be present along the length of many of the branches and trunk.

The subterranean roots are an excellent source of useful medicine

Flower Season:
Late Spring

Flower Appearance:
Individual flowers are about 1/3 inch across, and have five petals. They have a stem about ¼ in long, and are borne in racemes of 15-30 in late spring, typically around the time the leaves are fully grown. The racemes droop below the branches.

The fruit are about 1 cm diameter, range in color from bright red to black, with a very astringent, sour taste. They ripen in late summer. The very ripe berries are dark in color and less astringent than the red berries.

Miscellaneous characteristics:

Riversides, wet areas, dry areas, forest edges, along railroads, dry open woodlands, pine barrens, and swamps

Parts Used:
Fruit, Bark, Roots

Wild Food Uses:
The fruit can be eaten fresh, or made into jams, preserves, juice. Historically the fruit was dried and used throughout the year. Native Americans pounded the entire berry, including the pit, and used them throughout the year. It was a staple for many native tribes. It is very good added to pemmican. You can also pour pureed, or pounded fruit, onto cookie sheets and dry in a sunny location to make chokecherry leather. As the fruit dries, the astringent qualities subside, making it much more palatable.

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:
The roots and bark have been used as an astringent, an appetite stimulant (bitter), a blood tonic, and a sedative. Modern herbalists use chokecherry to relieve chest congestion and lung disorders. It is also a very effective expectorant. The roots of the plant have more medicinal qualities than the inner bark of the limbs and trunk. It is also said that an infusion of the bark can be used to soothe pink eye. Members of the Prunus genus contain anthocyanins, a phytochemical that has been shown to posess anti-inflammatory properties.

Medicinal Actions:
Anti-Inflammatory, Astringent, Bitter, Sedative, Tonic

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