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Common chokecherry

Flowers of common chokecherry.

A large deciduous shrub or small, 20-foot-high, understory tree often forming a dense colony. Slender twigs form a oval to rounded crown. Clusters of drooping white flowers are followed by dark purple fruit. Native throughout most of the United States but difficult to find in the nursery trade. Susceptible to many insect and disease problems.

This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.  

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Prunus virginiana

All common names:

Common chokecherry, Virginia bird cherry, bitter cherry

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub,
  • Tree

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Mixed border

Size Range:

  • Small tree (15-25 feet),
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet),
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 2,
  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6

Soil Preference:

  • Alkaline soil,
  • Dry soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • mid spring,
  • early fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Fragrant,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Irregular,
  • Oval,
  • Round,
  • Thicket-forming

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

More Information:

Size & Form

A irregular, dense large shrub to small suckering tree reaching 20 to 30 feet high.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun to part shade.
Tolerant of drought and dry to medium soil.

Disease, pests, and problems

Susceptible to many disease and insects. Black knot, mildew, rust, root rots, fireblight, borers, mites and tent caterpillars.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 3
Found throughout most of U.S.. in woodlands, bluffs and ravines.

Attracts birds & butterflies

Flower and fruit attract birds and butterflies.

Bark color and texture 

Brownish-gray with white lenticles.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Dark green 5 inch long elliptical shaped leaves with serrated margins. Underside of leaf is gray-green. Fall color is yellow to orange.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Fragrant 3 to 6 inch long slender clusters of white flowers in late April to early May.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruit is a pea-size purple drupe.


Cultivars and their differences

Canada Red (Prunus virginiana 'Canada Red'):  Foliage emerges green, then changes to purple and fianlly red in autumn.  More intense color than 'Schubert'.  Faster growing.

Schubert (Prunus virginiana 'Schubert'):  Foliage emerges green, then changes to purple and fianlly red in autumn.

Location of Prunus virginiana (Common chokecherry) at the Arboretum