Prunus virginiana (Fr: cerisier de Virginie | En: Chokecherry)
Description: Prunus virginiana var. virginiana
The chokecherry is one of the most common and also most ecologically important shrubs/small trees we have. Its leaves support an immense number of butterflies and moths which, like monarchs on milkweed, feed on the leaves to absorb their toxic compounds, which are present in all cherry and plum (Prunus) species.
The berries of chokecherry are quite astringent, hence the "choke" but when cooked with a bit of sugar can create quite pleasant jellies and syrups. Just remember to not eat the pits.
There unfortunately is an exotic relative of the chokecherry that has been introduced and spreading in urban areas around the region. It can be difficult to tell a apart from bird cherry (Prunus padus) necessitating a very close look at the flowers. However, the native species has one other feature that I find both beautiful and helps with identification. Choke cherry seems to be one of the very first plants to have its leaves change colour, becoming a brilliant red and orange as early as the start of August.
Consider planting chokecherry in place of exotic Lilacs or bridal wreath spiraeas.
Height: 2-5 metres
Habitat: open habitats, forest edges
Sun requirements: Part shade to full sun
Moisture requirements: dry to moist
Soil requirements: various