Tall shrub or small tree to 10 m; lvs thin, oblong to obovate, 5-12 cm, with mostly 8-11 pairs of fairly conspicuous lateral veins, obtuse to acute or abruptly short-acuminate
above, obtuse to rounded at base, sharply serrate with slender ascending teeth; racemes terminating leafy twigs of the season, 6-15 cm; pedicels 5-8 mm; sep broadly triangular to semi-circular, 1-1.5 mm, conspicuously glandular-erose, deciduous soon after anthesis; pet white, 4 mm, with subrotund blade; fr dark red or nearly black, 8-10 mm thick, astringent but edible; 2n=12. In a wide variety of habitats, from rocky hills and dunes to borders of swamps; Nf. to B.C., s. to N.C., Tex., and Calif. May, June. Ours is var. virginiana.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
Welsh et al. 1993, Kearney and Peebles 1969, FNA 2015
Common Name: chokecherry Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Tree Wetland Status: FAC General: Winter-deciduous shrubs or trees to 7.5 m, often suckering, with smooth reddish to ashy bark; trunk diameter up to 20 cm. Leaves: Alternate and petiolate, oval to obovate, 2-10 cm long, 1.5-7 cm wide, with serrately toothed margins, acuminate tips, and a rounded or heart-shaped base, bright green, pubescent or smooth, blades occasionally glandular beneath, the petioles usually bearing 2 distal glands. Flowers: Clusters of white flowers in elongate racemes 4-20 cm long; the peduncles leafy, 2-8 cm long; the flowers 1-2 cm wide, numerous, on glabrous pedicels 4-17 mm long; 5 white petals, 4-6 mm long, suborbicular; sepals fringed, glabrous; stamens numerous, extruded; hypanthium cupulate, glabrous. Fruits: Clusters of bright red to black juicy berries (drupes), 6-8 mm in diameter. Ecology: Found in coniferous forests and heavily wooded areas from 4,500-8,000 ft (1372-2438 m); flowers April-June. Distribution: Ranges widely across North America. Notes: More common than the other native cherry, P. serotina, this species is distinguished by the early-deciduous sepal lobes which fall off the fruit long before the fruit is mature. In contrast, P. serotina has persistent sepals which cling to the underside of the berry after maturity. Most local treatments recognize 2 varieties of P. virginiana in the Southwest: P. virginiana var. demissa is identified by its pubescent young twigs and leaf surfaces and its red fruit, and P. virginiana var. melanocarpa by its glabrous twigs and leaves and black fruit. However, the recent FNA treatment examines the species' variation on a continental scale and concludes that there is such high intergradation among the many North American varieties that only 2 varieties should be recognized; all western chokecherries (those trees in our range) should be classified as var. demissa, with leaves at least twice as long as wide, larger petals 4-5 mm long, and longer racemes 60-110 cm; all eastern chokecherries (east of New Mexico) are var. virginiana, with leaves less than twice as long as wide, shorter racemes 40-70 cm, and smaller petals 2-4 mm. Ethnobotany: Infusion of bark taken for colds, coughs, fever, auge, cramps, lung hemorrhages, tonic, diarrhea and dysentery and to wash wounds and eyesores. Fruit used as food and to induce hunger in children. Etymology: Prunus is an ancient Latin name for the plum; virginiana means from or referring to Virginia. Synonyms: None Editor: LCrumbacher 2011, AHazelton2015