(This is part of a series of articles on plants native to our area. But why natives? Because each patch of habitat becomes part of a collective effort to nurture and sustain the living landscape for birds and other animals.)
Chokeberries are some of the prettiest spring-blooming shrubs. There are two species: the black ckokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa, and the red, Aronia arbutifolia. Both have lovely clusters of small, white to light pink flowers loved by early pollinators; both lose their leaves in the fall (they’re deciduous); and both make great ornamental shrubs.
The family is also known for the edible berries — very sour, hence the name, but an important late-winter/early-spring food for birds, when they’ve eaten everything else. They prefer sun but will tolerate part shade since they are naturally a forest-edge or open-woods shrub. They occur in moist to wet forests, so they don’t mind a wet area in the garden.
Both are upright shrubs and can get leggy, so cutting back a few of the oldest canes every year will help keep it bushy. Both have stunning fall color, making them an excellent choice to replace the invasive nonnative Burning Bush.
The black chokeberry gets from 3- to 6-feet tall. Its berries are black to dark purple and are very ornamental. The fall color is a showy dark red to maroon. It is more common on the coastal plain, where we live.
The red chokeberry has bright red berries, also beautiful in fall. It gets larger, to 12 feet. Its fall color is a more brilliant reddish-orange.
Both are wonderful additions to your landscape — truly all-season shrubs with their spring flowers, glossy healthy leaves in summer, fall color and winter berries.