Prepared by Jennifer L. D’Appollonio, Assistant Scientist, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469. Updated February 2018.

Scientific name: Prunus virginiana L.

Common name(s): chokecherry, choke cherry, common chokecherry

Links: USDA PLANTS Profile, NPIN Profile, Go Botany

Images: (to see enlargements [PC]: click on image, then right click and choose “view image”)


– woody perennial

– generally flowers in late May-early June in ME

-Shrub or small tree

-can reach 4’-20′ in height

-dark smooth bark with white horizontal lenticels

-Leaves are

  • alternate
  • oval to lance-shaped
  • bright green above, paler below
  • sharply toothed

-Flowers are white, in dense clusters 3”-6” long

-Fruit is dark red to black

-Twigs have an undesirably odor when crushed

– may be confused with P. serotina; see left sidebar on Go Botany webpage


Prefers moist rich soils.

-disturbed sites

-forest edges

-meadows and fields


Natural History:

-gets its name from its astringent fruit

Wildlife Benefits:

-the favorite host plant of Eastern tent caterpillars

-birds feed on the fruit



Heinrich, B. 1976. Flowering phenologies: Bog, woodland, and disturbed habitats. Ecology. 57(5):890-899.

Go Botany. “Prunus Virginiana L.” Prunus Virginiana (Choke Cherry): Go Botany, National Sceince Foundation, 2021,