Prunus virginiana: choke-cherry [American bird-cherry]

Family: Rosaceae [subfamily Prunoideae], part of the rosoid group.

Form: potentially a small tree, but only 10-20 feet tall in Kentucky; with running roots also forming dense shrubby thickets.

Range: northeastern North America as var. virginiana, and across most of western North America as other varieties; rare in Kentucky, scattered along Kentucky River Palisades, plus a few Appalachian records.

Habitat: thin woods and thickets; on a wide range of soils across its range; in Ky. largely restricted to ledges on narrow limestone points.

Consumers: fruits very astringent for mammals, but eaten by many birds; leaves not much browsed, potentially toxic with cyanide; tent caterpillars and other pests may be occasionally severe.

Growing notes: with cross-pollination, seed germinates well after winter; plants divisible from roots; potential for ornamental hedging.

Choke Cherry leaves and flowers
Choke Cherry leaves and flowers Image:


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