Where in the OLL?
The Black Chokeberry is located in the Rain Garden and the Botanical Garden in the Outdoor Learning Lab. This plant is located here because the Chokeberry thrives in the wet lands but also in drier soils. The plant grows the best when it is in moist well-drained areas. This is why the rain garden is a great area for the Chokeberry because it receives extra rain from runoff, and rain gardens are designed to store this runoff as well. The Black Chokeberry contributes to the area by not only producing berries for animals to eat, but also provides shelter for small animals, as well as nesting areas for these animals. The Chokeberry flower is also a good food source for pollinators.
Plant growth form
- Can grow in well-drained soils
- Can grow in either full sun or partial sun
- When full grown it is 3-6 ft tall and 3-6 ft wide.
- During the spring time, the Black Chokeberry starts to bloom with little white flowers that come in as clusters. In the summer, the fertilized flowers start maturing into little berries and by fall the berries are ripe and ready to be eaten. In the winter, the berries can persist and to be eaten by birds and small animals.
- The leaves are dark green until fall when they start to turn red. The leaves are usually 1” to 3” long with small teeth. They are arranged alternately on the stem with a bright red axillary bud next to every leaf.
Flowers, fruits & pollinators
The Chokeberry flowers are small and come in clusters. They are white with a little yellow in the middle. Flowering usually starts around May and can go until late summer when the fruits start growing. The chokeberry has perfect flowers with five petals. A perfect flower means that the flower had both male and female reproductive parts. In other words, the flower had both stamen and pistils, and they can self-pollinate.
The Chokeberry flowers have 5 petals and 5 sepals. In the picture above you can see the pistil (at the very middle of the flower) that sticks out and gathers pollen and provides a passage way to fertilize the ovules in the middle of the pistil. You can also see the stamens that surround the green pistil, which have the pink tops. They create pollen. The Black Chokeberry flowers have approximately 20 stamens.
Ideal location, conditions & cultural needs
- The Black Chokeberry mostly grows in the moist woods, but it can also survive in drier thickets or clearings.
- It can thrive in either partial sun (which is about 4-6 hours daily) or full sun (6 or more hours daily), although the plants that are exposed to the full sun get the best flowering and fruiting.
- Prefers moist acid soils, but can also survive on low wet areas and dry areas.
- This plant needs to be planted in an area that has 15 or more inches of annual precipitation.
- The Black Chokeberry is native to North America
Planning & maintenance
- 4 to 6 feet in distance between plants is ideal for plant growth
- Although if the plants are being used for fruit production 10 ft is recommended.
- Prune regularly to prevent the shrub from spreading.
Cultivars & propagation
The best way to grow a Black Chokeberry plant is to grow it from seeds. Seeds should be planted in the spring when the chance of frost is gone. Plant nurseries such as Nasami farm and the Hadley Garden Center carry the seeds. When growing the plant from seed it can be very slow, especially if planted in drier soils. If you are going to plant seeds you should stratify them in a cold location for at least 3 months to break seed dormancy. See the link bellow to learn how to stratify a seed: https://www.americanmeadows.com/blog/2018/03/07/how-to-cold-stratify-seeds
Pests & pathogens
- The Black Chokeberry has no serious pest or disease problems
- It’s best to prune the stems just above the leaf node (where the buds are), to prevent die-back. Die back is when the plant starts to die from the tip of the leaves or roots. This leaves the plant vulnerable to diseases.
Landscape & ecosystem
The Black Chokeberry leaves turn a beautiful red in the fall, with dark berries. In the spring and early summer, the plant is in bloom and the white flowers make the plant very visible and attractive. This provides many things for wildlife, including a place to nest as well as food. When the plants are young and immature, animals like deer, elk, moose, and bears like to eat the leaves. The fruits are eaten mostly by birds, animals like bears, rabbits, rodents, and small mammals enjoy them as well. The main pollinators of the Black Chokeberry are bees, but they also attract other pollinators like butterflies and ants.
- The Black Chokeberry berries are very bitter to the taste if you eat them raw, but they can be made into jellies, jams, and juices.
- Native American tribes used chokeberries for many medical purposes including: canker sores, sore throats, sore eyes, and diarrhea. The bark of the plant was also used for diarrhea.
- Native Americans also used the roots from the chokeberry plant by drying them, then chewing them, and placing them in wounds to stop the bleeding.
- The stems were used to make a tea to cure high fevers.