E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Prunus virginiana L.
choke cherry (chokecherry)
Rosaceae (Rose family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Bryan Kelly-McArthur  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #89377)

E-Flora BC Static Map
Distribution of Prunus virginiana
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This is a small deciduous species of cherry tree that is native to BC.

Species Information

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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

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Mid Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Black
Present over the Summer
According to the USDA, this species is a known allelopath.
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / 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.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Prunus virginiana

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 38 828 2013
Slope Gradient (%) 0 39 230
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 190 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 2 7
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(6), BG(68), BWBS(42), CWH(1), ESSF(12), ICH(124), IDF(320), IMA(1), MS(64), PP(102), SBPS(5), SBS(80)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-intolerant. submontane to subalpine. transcontinental North American deciduous shrub. Occurs in continental cool temperate and cool semiarid climates on moderately dry to fresh. nitrogenĀ­rich (occasionally weakly alkaline) soils (Moder and Mull humus forms). Its occurrence increases with increasing temperature and continentality. and decreases with increasing precipitation and latitude. Occasional in immature broadĀ­leaf forests on water-shedding sites on leeward Vancouver Island and in the coast -interior ecotone. A nitrophytic species characteristic of young-seral, continental forests.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is cool temperate & cool semiarid.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Prunus demissa (Nutt.) Walp.
Prunus virginiana subsp. demissa (Nutt.) Roy L. Taylor & MacBryde

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References