Chokeberries are two to three species of flowering plants in genus Aronia, in the family Rosaceae, native to eastern North America. The plants can be found growing in wet woods and swamps. The name chokeberry comes from the astringency of the fruit which is inedible when raw.

Chokeberry has leaves that are alternate, simple and oblanceolate with crenate margins and pinnate venation. The leaves turn into a striking bold red color in autumn. The flowers are small and are produced in corymbsof 10-25 together, with five sepals and five petals. The fruit is a small pome, 4-10mm, with a very astringent and bitter flavor. The berries can make into jam, juice, syrup, wine, soft spreads, tea and tinctures. The berries are eaten by birds which then disperse the seeds in their dropping.

In eastern North America, there are two well-known species, named after the color of their fruits, red chokeberry and black chokeberry. There is also another type of hybrid between these two species called purple chokeberry.

Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), 2-4 m tall, have leaves that are 5-8 cm wide and densely pubescent on the underside. The flowers are white or pale pink, 1 cm wide, with glandular sepals, follow by red berries, 4-10 mm, which persist into winter.

Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), about 1 m tall, spread readily by root sprouts. The leaves are smaller, 6 cm wide, with terminal glands on the leaf teeth and a glabrous underside. The white flowers are 1.5 cm wide, with glabrous sepals. The black berries are 6-9 mm wide and not persisting into winter.

Purple chokeberry (Aronia prunifolia) has leaves that are moderately pubescent on the underside. It bears dark-purple to black berries, 7-10 mm in diameter, which are not persisting into winter.

Chokeberries are attractive ornamental plants, grown well when planted under trees. They are resistant to drought, insects, pollution and disease. Cultivars such as A. arbutifolia 'Brilliant' was selected for its striking autumn foliage color, while A. melanocarpa 'Viking' and 'Nero' were selected for larger fruits suitable for jam-making. Chokeberry plant is self-fertile and only need one plant to produce fruit.

Juice from these berries is astringent and not sweet, but is high in vitamin C and antioxidant. The red chokeberry is more palatable and can be eaten raw. It has a sweeter flavor than the black chokeberry and is used to make jam or pemmican (a concentrated mixture of fat and protein used as a nutritional food).

Red ChokeberriesRed Chokeberries
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