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Aronia is a genus of upright shrubs native to North America. These plants are grown as ornamentals in their native range and they are also cultivated for their edible fruit. Known as chokeberries, these plants have been utilized by Native American populations for centuries and thanks to the high antioxidant content of the fruit, they are increasingly popular with the general public. Nurseries in North America sometimes stock chokeberries and they can also order them by special request from customers.
There are three known species in this genus: the red, purple, and black chokeberry. Aronia species are all small deciduous shrubs with simple, oblong leaves. They produce clusters of white to pink flowers that mature into small berries in the fall months. Depending on the species, the berries can be bright red, rich purple, or a dull black. The berries are extremely astringent and cannot be consumed raw.
In the fall months, the foliage turns bright red and the colorful berries tend to stand out. When harvested, the berries can be dried, cooked, and/or blended with other fruits to make jams and jellies, drinks, and other foods. Cooking reduces the astringency and makes the berries palatable. Black chokeberries are especially high in antioxidants and are used in the commercial preparation of antioxidant supplements.
These plants are hardy to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zone three, and they are extremely durable. While they have adapted to grow in wet climates like bogs and woodlands, they can thrive in drier conditions. They are also not picky about soil quality. Aronia can handle acidic or basic soil, salty conditions, and very poor soil. The only major growing requirement is that the plants need partial shade. Full sun can be too intense, and full shade can subject the plants to mildew and rot.
Gardeners interested in propagating Aronia species can grow them from seeds, cuttings, and divisions. The plants can work very well as specimen plantings in a garden, or they can be massed and used in the creation of low hedges. The berries can be messy and will reseed, so even if gardeners do not intend to use them, it is advisable to collect them in the fall months. Pruning Aronia can be done in the spring before the shrubs start to leaf out, if shaping is desired.
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