Choke cherry

Prunus virginiana
Choke cherry Choke cherry

Commonly a shrub, and occasionally a small tree, 1 to 4 metres tall; sometimes with a twisted or crooked trunk and a narrow, irregular crown.

Choke cherry leaves and flowers

Leaves
Broadly oval-shaped leaves, sometimes broadest above the middle, tapering at both ends, 8 to 10 centimetres long; thin, with fine, sharply toothed edges; dull green on top, greenish underneath.
Flowers
Many small, white flowers in a cluster at the end of the twig, which resembles a bottle brush.

Fruit
Shiny, round, crimson to black cherries, 15 millimetres in diameter; bitter but edible.

Choke cherry fruit
Choke cherry bark Bark
Smooth, dark reddish-brown to greyish-brown.

Where to find choke cherry
It is common throughout southern British Columbia, especially east of the Coast and Cascade mountains, at low to mid elevations. It is also found in the Peace and Stikine river valleys.

Habitat
Choke cherry commonly occurs on the edge of woodlands and thickets, often on dry, exposed sites, along streams and in clearings.

Uses
Aboriginal people in the southern and northern Interior ate the choke cherry fruit. They collected the cherries in the fall and dried them, often with the stones left in. They used the choke cherry wood for handles, and shredded the bark and used it for decorating basket rims. They made a tonic from the bark for regaining strength after childbirth.Caution

Where to find choke cherry
Many people use choke cherries for wine, juice, syrup, and jelly.

Notes
The Gitksan name for choke cherry means "it makes your mouth and throat so that nothing will slip on it."

Virginiana, like pensylvanica (see pin cherry), refers to the distribution of these plants. They were first collected and described in the east by early North American botanists.

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