What is a Black Chokeberry?

Sara Schmidt

The black chokeberry is an ornamental plant from the rose family. The deciduous shrub grows small clusters of flowers and blue-black berries. Its scientific name is Photinia melanocarpa, and it can be found in Eastern North America.

Black chokeberries are edible and are sometimes sold as jellies and jams.
Black chokeberries are edible and are sometimes sold as jellies and jams.

Fast-growing plants, chokeberry shrubs feature green leaves with a red tinge. Small, dark hairs grow down the center of each leaf. Flower clusters, which bloom during the spring, are typically white, and resemble the flowers of a Hawthorn tree. The flowers feature red stamens. The black berries that the plants grow, also known as pomes, arrive in the fall and winter.

As the plants grow, they tend to form a vase-like shape. This ornamental appearance is a favorite decoration in some gardens. During the fall, the plants also feature vibrant red and orange foliage. Self-sowing and multi-stemmed, the shrubs can branch out widely, accounting for a large width capacity for each shrub.

Zones three to eight contain the most optimal growing conditions for the black chokeberry in North America. Sun or partial shade can be used to grow chokeberry shrubs. Dry and wet soil can both foster strong black chokeberry plants, as can rocky terrains. The shrubs are considered hardy plants that can withstand poor soils as well. Chokeberries can grow up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) in height, while flowers grow up to 3/8 inch (1 centimeter) in width.

Outside purposefully planted gardens, black chokeberry shrubs can be found throughout the wild. Wet soils and thickets are two habitats that often feature these ornamental plants in the wild. Dry areas of Eastern North America also often feature the plants. Acid soil that is well-drained usually fosters the largest chokeberry plants.

Black chokeberries are edible and are sometimes sold as juice products, jellies, syrups, and jams. High in antioxidants, the berries are also a rich source of vitamins. Low in fats and calories, they make a healthy snack for dieters. Birds and other animals enjoy the berries and their astringent flavor as well. The red variations are also edible.

In Europe, the black chokeberry plant is used in orchards. Many people like to use the shrubs in North America as edge plants. As a hedging border plant, black chokeberry can help prevent erosion. The plants' glossy berries and leaves, tasty culinary applications, and easy growing instructions make them popular garden plants.

Chokeberries are often mistakenly called chokecherries. This is an inaccurate moniker. Chokecherries are actually another species of plant known as Prunus virginiana.

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Discussion Comments


@ysmina-- That's interesting. I have a black chokeberry tree too and the birds here seem to love it. I don't see the fruits hanging on the branches for very long.

I wonder if there are different types of black chokeberries that taste different?

Or maybe some birds enjoy it more than others? We have a lot of robins around here and they eat most of my black chokeberries. Do you know which birds are eating the ones in your yard?

I think that might be an important piece of information who want to adopt and raise black chokeberries for birds.


@ysmina-- I have never made it myself but bought some from an organic store once. I think you can get the juice out of them and then use gelatin to make jelly. I has a really nice, a bit sweet, a bit astringent taste to it. It tastes great on toast with fresh butter.

One of my friends makes homemade soap and I think he mentioned once that he uses black chokeberries to make soap for oily skin. If you're into soap making, that could be another option.


I have black chokeberries in my yard. Birds do like them, but they seem to prefer some other food sources/berries first. I've noticed that in the beginning of the season, the black chokeberries are pretty much ignored by the birds, but they finished them all up a few months later.

I don't know if it's because the chokeberries become sweeter than or if it is just the last food option for birds, but that's how it has been for the last couple of years I've observed them.

I know that black chokeberries are edible, but I've never tried eating them myself. I guess I should take advantage of it and at least try and make some homemade jam or jelly with it.

Anyone have any tips or recipes?

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