Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Choke Cherry - Prunus virginiana   L.
Members of Rosaceae:
Members of Prunus with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Rosales » Family Rosaceae
DistributionScattered over nearly all of the Mountains, though lacking records in some counties. Not found in the Piedmont, unless immediately adjacent to the Blue Ridge.

This is a Northern species of a wider range than any other Prunus found in the state. It occurs across most of Canada, south into Mexico and in all Western states. However, in the Southeast it ranges only down the Appalachians to northern GA.
AbundanceRare to locally uncommon. When RAB (1968) was published, there were records only for two counties, but now it has been found in at least 9 counties -- the BONAP map shows 11 counties -- found in many sites over the middle and higher elevations. Nonetheless, the NCNHP lists it as a Watch List species.
HabitatThis species occurs in rich soil in northern hardwood forests or other hardwood stands, such as oak-hickory forests; most sites are over mafic rocks. It is somewhat local in occurrence, as suitable circumneutral soils can be locally uncommon.
See also Habitat Account for Montane Rosaceous Thickets
PhenologyFlowers from late April through May, rarely to June. Fruits in July and August.
IdentificationThough a very familiar small tree or shrub in the northern and western parts of the country, many biologists in the state are not familiar with it here. This is a large deciduous shrub or small tree, up to about 15 feet tall. It grows in colonies and can form noticeable stands in such upland hardwoods. It has fairly wide leaves for a cherry/plum, and they are slightly obovate (wider above the middle); leaves average 3-3.5 inches long, and they are longer and wider than those of similar species. The leaf shape, colonial nature, and dangling white flowers in racemes that are somewhat shorter than those of Black Cherry (P. serotina) should aid identification.
Taxonomic CommentsAs would be expected for a species with such a huge range, it has several varieties. Only the nominate P. virginiana var. virginiana occurs in NC.

Other Common Name(s)Bitter-berry, Virginia Bird Cherry, Chokecherry (one word)
State RankS2
Global RankG5
State Status[W7]
US Status
USACE-agcpFACU link
USACE-empFACU link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorrieJuly 2020, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC

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