Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa
Black-Fruited Choke Cherry, Wild Cherry
Height: 7 m (23 ft.)
Spread: 3.5 m (12 ft.)
Recommended Spacing: 1 m (3 ft.)
Growth Rate: moderate
Lifespan: 50 years+
Note: susceptible to black knot disease and prairie tent caterpillar infestations
Choke cherry is a medium to tall shrub that performs well on moderately well-drained sites over a wide range of soil textures. Best growth occurs on open and sunny sites, but some shade is tolerated. The leaves are typically dark green; occasionally plants with dark purple leaves naturally occur. Long, white flower clusters appear in early June, developing into small, pea-sized, crimson or black, astringent but edible (that is, with enough sugar) fruit in July to early September.
In farmyard and livestock shelterbelts, plant choke cherry as an outside row or as a single roadside row to trap snow and control erosion. Occasionally used as a single row in field shelterbelts, choke cherry is most often combined with other species in single or multiple row shelterbelts to increase diversity.
Planted for wildlife habitat or ecological purposes, choke cherry provides cover and food for a variety of birds and other wildlife. The fruit is an important fall and winter food source for birds, but can also be made into syrup, jelly and wine. It is also a good source of nectar and pollen for bees and other insects. In riparian plantings, the deep woody roots help stabilize soil, control erosion and protect water quality.
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