South Dakota Native Plant Research
Rosaceae : Prunus virginiana

Rosaceae : Prunus virginiana


Download Seed: Chokecherry seeds with fruit removed collected near Brookings, S.D. in July. (1 KB)

Download Seedling: Seedling of chokecherry planted in garden at Oak Lake Research Station near Brookings, S.D. (57 KB)

Download Mature plant (4.1 MB)

Download Vegetative: Leaves are 4-10 cm long. (1006 KB)

Download Flowering: Flowers emerge after the leaves. (335 KB)

Download Fruiting: The dark purple fruit is quite bitter. (649 KB)

Family Name


Common Name


Native American Name

Dakota: Canpa; Lakota: čhaŋpȟá


Prunus virginiana is a perennial, deciduous shrub or small tree that forms thickets from root sprouts and grows 2-6 m in height. The bark on the trunk and branches is red brown to dark brown in color. The simple, alternate leaves have petioles 1-3 cm long, with stipules 2-4 mm long and large glands near the base of the blade. The blades are ovate to obovate, 4-12 cm long, 3-6 cm wide, the rounded and the tip pointed, with small teeth on the margins. The upper leaf surface is usually dark green and shiny and the lower surface gray green, occasionally with hairs along the veins. the inflorescences are dense racemes terminating leafy twigs of the season. Each flower has a bell-shaped hypanthium ~1.5 mm long with 5 deciduous sepals 1-1.5 mm long. The 5 white petals are rounded, 3-4 mm long. there are 20-30 stamens in several rows surrounding a single ovoid ovary ~ 1.5 mm long. the fruit is a round, deep red to almost black, fleshy drupe, 8-11 mm in diameter. Chokecherries bloom in April and May in open woodlands, canyons, on prairies and along streams and roadways throughout South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Chokecherry can be an attractive addition to a native plant garden, producing a profusion of cylindrical clusters of white flowers in the spring, followed by masses of dark red berries in the summer. The plants attract native bees and many bird species that feed on the fruit. The Dakota and other indigenous peoples traditionally pulverized and dried the fruit into cakes, pits and all, for puddings and other cooking uses. Fresh fruits can be harvested for processing into jams, jellies, pies and sauces. As a horticultural planting, these trees are susceptible to a large number of insect and disease pests, including black knot, leaf spot, powdery mildew, aphids, scale, and tent caterpillars.

Horticulture Notes

Seed Collection: Collect fruit in July and August when they become dark colored. Remove the flesh.

Germination: Fall sowing provides good germination or 60-90 day cold stratification before spring planting.

Vegetative Propagation: Softwood cuttings treated with rooting hormone. Soils: Prefers sandy, well drained soils.

Light: Full sun to partial shade.

Water: Moderate moisture, avoid dry sites.

Rosaceae : Prunus virginiana