How to Identify Chokecherry Trees


Chokecherry, known botanically as Prunus virginiana, is a large deciduous shrub or small tree that flowers in the late spring or early summer and fruits in the late summer or early fall. It is cold hardy down to USDA Zone 2 and uses suckers to propagate itself. The fruits are used in food and drink preparations for humans and serve as both a nutrition source and a shelter habitat for animals. Once you know what to look for, the wild plant can often be spotted along shallow or even dry creek beds.

Step 1

Look for sprawling, thicket-like shrubs that are 40-feet tall or less with a width of 28-feet or less growing in moist, rich soil in woodland areas, open lands, swamps or along stream or river banks.

Step 2

Inspect the branching to look for greyish-brown bark with long shallow cracks that have curled or fanned out edges. Smaller interior branches and twigs will have a smoother gray bark and will produce a foul scent when snapped or cut open.

Step 3

Look for white hanging panicles of flowers with yellow centers in May and June that are between 3 and 6 inches in length. The flowers will appear over oval petals in deep green with serrated edges that are up to 4 inches long and up to 2 inches wide.

Step 4

Inspect for ripe chokecherry fruit in August and September that is roughly 1/3 inch in diameter and round with a small pit in the center. The cherries turn bright red to reddish black when they ripen fully and are clustered on short hanging stems.


  • West Virginia University: Chokecherry
  • Virginina Tech: Prunus virginiana

Who Can Help

  • USDA: Interactive Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Keywords: choke cherry trees, physical attributes of choke cherry, identify choke cherry

About this Author

An omni-curious communications professional, Dena Kane has more than 17 years of experience writing and editing content for online publications, corporate communications, business clients, industry journals, as well as film and broadcast media. Kane studied political science at the University of California, San Diego.