Prunus virginiana subsp. melanocarpa L. (A. Nelson) Roy L. Taylor & MacBryde
choke cherry
Rosaceae (Rose family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© Carla Davis     (Photo ID #16450)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Prunus virginiana subsp. melanocarpa
Click here to view the full interactive map and legend


This is a small deciduous species of cherry tree that is native to BC.

Species Information

Shrub or occasionally a small tree, 1-6 m tall, often suckering and thicket-forming; young twigs usually hairy; bark smooth to fine-scaly, reddish-brown to grey-brown, not peeling readily, the lenticels not prominent.
Alternate, deciduous, elliptic to egg-shaped, 3-10 cm long; finely and regularly saw-toothed, abruptly tapering to a sharp-pointed tip, blunt to rounded or somewhat heart-shaped at the base, green and smooth above, paler and smooth to hairy beneath; leaf stalk with 1 or 2 prominent glands near the top.
Inflorescence a long (5-15 cm) bottlebrush-like cluster, at the end of a short leafy spur-shoot, of numerous stalked flowers; corollas white, saucer-shaped, the petals 5, nearly circular, 4-6 mm long; calyces smooth, 5-lobed, the oval lobes blunt, irregularly glandular-toothed or ragged, 1-1.5 mm long; ovaries superior; stamens about 25.
Fleshy drupes with a large stone (cherries), egg- to globe-shaped, 6-12 mm long, shiny, red, purple or black; seeds 1.
Two subspecies occur in BC:

1. Leaves smooth beneath or hairy in axils of veins; drupes bluish-purple to black; plants from east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains................ ssp. melanocarpa (Nels.) Taylor & MacBryde

1. Leaves velvety-hairy beneath; drupes black; plants from west of the Coast-Cascade Mountains.................... ssp. demissa Taylor & MacBryde

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat and Range

Dry to mesic forest edges, open forests, thickets, bluffs, grassy rocky slopes, river terraces, gullies, draws and streambanks in grasslands, and clearings in the lowland and montane zones; common in S BC, especially east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains, infrequent northward; E to NF and S to NC, TX and CA.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia