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Prunus virginiana - L.

Common Name Chokecherry, Western chokecherry, Black chokecherry
Family Rosaceae
USDA hardiness Coming soon
Known Hazards The seed can contain high concentrations of hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is readily detected by its bitter taste. Usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm, any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten[65]. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Habitats Rich, rather moist soils, in thickets, borders of woods and on shores[43].
Range N. America - British Columbia to California, east to Newfoundland and North Carolina.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Prunus virginiana Chokecherry, Western chokecherry, Black chokecherry


Prunus virginiana Chokecherry, Western chokecherry, Black chokecherry

 

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Summary


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Prunus virginiana is a deciduous Shrub growing to 3.6 m (11ft 10in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 2. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

P. nana. Padus rubra.

Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Seed
Edible Uses: Tea

Fruit - raw or cooked[2, 55, 62, 159]. Very harsh, it is normally used in pies, jellies etc[155, 183]. Dark and juicy, it is sometimes edible raw when fully mature[82, 101]. The fruit can be dried and is then quite nice raw[85]. The fruit is up to 8mm in diameter and contains a single large seed[227]. Seed - raw or cooked. Very nutritious, they are added to pemmican[183]. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity. The bark and twigs are a tea substitute[161, 183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Astringent  Febrifuge  Pectoral  Poultice  Salve  Sedative  Tonic

Chokecherry was widely employed medicinally by many native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints, valuing it especially for its astringency and beneficial effect upon the respiratory system[257]. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. The roots and the bark are a blood tonic, astringent, pectoral, sedative, tonic and appetite stimulant[46, 61, 226]. An infusion has been used in the treatment of fevers, coughs and colds[257]. An infusion of the root bark has been used as a wash for burns, old sores and ulcers[257]. The inner bark is used externally in the treatment of wounds[222]. A decoction of the inner bark has been used as a treatment for laryngitis and stomach aches[257]. The bark is sometimes used as a flavouring agent in cough syrups[227]. The dried and powdered fruits are used to stimulate the appetite, treat diarrhoea and bloody discharges of the bowels[222, 257]. The astringent unripened fruit has been used by children as a treatment for diarrhoea[257]. The fruit juice has been used as a treatment for sore throats[257]. Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being[238].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Pioneer  Soil stabilization  Wood

The plant forms thickets by means of suckers from its extensive root system and can be planted for erosion control[149]. It is a pioneer species of abandoned fields and cut-over lands[229]. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[168]. A green dye is obtained from the inner bark in spring[155]. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[168]. A purplish-red dye is obtained from the fruit[155]. Wood - close grained, moderately strong, hard, heavy, does not burn easily. The wood weighs about 36lb per cubic foot[227]. It is not valuable because of its small size and irregular shape, but is used for skewers etc[99, 149, 229].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil[11]. Requires a sunny position[11]. Thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone[11]. Prefers some chalk in the soil but apt to become chlorotic if too much is present[1]. A fast-growing but short-lived tree in the wild[229], it has a tendency to form thickets of considerable extent from root sprouts[227]. Sometimes cultivated for its edible fruit, and sold in local markets[46], there are a number of named varieties some of which have much less astringent fruit[183]. The fruit is not very freely borne in Britain[11], though good crops are borne almost annually in the wild[227]. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged[238]. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200]. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 8 through 1. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. A sprouting standard sending up shoots from the base [1-2]. The root pattern is flat with shallow roots forming a plate near the soil surface [1-2]. The root pattern is suckering with new plants from underground runners away from the plant [1-2].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Propagation

Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[200]. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[200]. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate[113]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame[11, 200]. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame[200]. Layering in spring. Division of suckers during the dormant season. They can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.

 

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Author

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Botanical References

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Readers comment

Lyn Ballough   Tue Aug 2 19:26:28 2005

Re: chokecherry plants - I grew up with these plants, and loved the jam and syrup made from the fruit. Have recently purchased 5 plants from Gurneys, but after 3 years of having the plants they have yet to bloom! Plants are in sandy soil, watered w/drip system. Help!

matthew   Sun Aug 27 2006

give them nitrogen

Guylaine   Thu Mar 29 2007

Rendement du cultivar Maskinongé (Prunus virginiana) à Normandin au Québec, Canada: Yield of Maskinonge: an 1 : 3000 kg/ha en 2001 potentiel à maturité: 10 à 15000 kg distance de plantation: 1.25 m entre les plants

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