Home Gardening Chokeberry vs. Chokecherry

Chokeberry vs. Chokecherry – GIY Plants

Plate of fresh chokeberries vs chokecherries.

Understanding the dissimilarities between chokeberry and chokecherry can be challenging, given their common names. Chokeberries and chokecherries are different plant species belonging to other genera, each with unique characteristics.

The chokeberry is a plant from the Aronia genus, with the black chokeberry or Aronia melanocarpa as the most widely recognized species. Native to North America, chokeberries are not poisonous, bearing fruits that are safe to eat.

As a deciduous shrub, the chokeberry plant grows well in zones 3 through 8, making it a versatile addition to any vegetable garden or horticulture project.

On the other hand, chokecherry, also known as Prunus virginiana or Virginia bird berry, is a member of the Prunus genus, which houses other stone fruits like cherries, plums, and peaches. It’s a shrub species from the Rosaceae family, often grown as an ornamental or forage plant.

Although chokecherry fruits are generally edible, parts of the plant, such as the bark of the chokecherry and seeds, contain cyanide, making them potentially poisonous to humans.

Chokeberry Plant: Antioxidant Powerhouse

Close up of clusters of chokeberries on the plant.

The chokeberry bush stands out for its attractive fall color, ornamental appeal, and clusters of small, astringent berries known as Aronia. These berries, particularly black chokeberries, are edible fruit that packs a significant health punch.

Chokeberries are rich in antioxidants such as anthocyanin. Their ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) score[1], a measure of antioxidant strength, is among the highest in berries. The health benefits of antioxidants are well-documented, including combating harmful free radicals and bolstering the immune system.

Chokeberry plants, often displaying chokeberry flowers in spring, also have a functional role in horticulture. They are commonly grown for their vivid fall foliage, enhancing landscape aesthetics.

Chokecherry Plant: More Than Just a Berry

Close up of chokecherries on the plant.

The chokecherry plant, distinguished by its sour cherry-like fruits, belongs to the rose or Rosaceae family. Chokecherries grow in clusters similar to chokeberries, lending a distinctive charm to chokecherry bushes.

The fruits of chokecherry, although bitter-berry-like, are edible when cooked, commonly transformed into chokecherry jam, jelly, or syrup. However, recipes often require plenty of sugar to offset the naturally astringent taste.

Yet, one must tread with caution when consuming chokecherry fruits. Like the leaves and bark, the chokecherry seeds contain hydrocyanic acid, a compound that can release cyanide[2]. Although segmented stomachs in birds and other animals can handle this, it can be toxic to humans if ingested in substantial amounts.

Chokeberry Vs. Chokecherry: Key Differences

While both are native to parts of North America and provide food for birds and other wildlife, the chokeberry and chokecherry serve different purposes for human use.

Due to their high antioxidant content, Aronia berries, or chokeberries, find their way into various health-focused products. Apart from eating fresh fruit, chokeberries can be used to make jams and are often seen in health supplements or juices.

Chokecherries, in contrast, are less commonly eaten raw due to their astringent taste and potential toxicity. Most often, chokecherries are used in cooking or baking, where heat can break down the cyanide in the seeds. For safety, it is crucial to avoid consuming the seeds.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between chokeberry and chokecherry?

Chokeberry and chokecherry are two plants often confused due to their similar names. However, they belong to different plant genera and have distinct characteristics.

Are chokeberries and chokecherries the same?

No, chokeberries and chokecherries are not the same. Chokecherry is the common name for Prunus virginiana, a species of cherry native to the eastern United States. On the other hand, chokeberry refers to plants from the genus Aronia, which are not cherries but belong to the Rosaceae family.

Can chokecherries and chokeberries be eaten?

Yes, both chokecherries and chokeberries can be eaten. However, chokecherries are quite bitter and are more commonly used in cooking and for making jams, jellies, and syrups. Thanks to their tart flavor, Chokeberries are often used in juices, wines, and various culinary preparations.

Can chokecherries and chokeberries be used medicinally?

Yes, both chokecherries and chokeberries have medicinal uses. They are rich in antioxidants, which contribute to their potential health benefits. Chokeberries, in particular, are known for their high antioxidant content and are often used as dietary supplements or natural remedies.

How do chokecherries and chokeberries grow?

Chokecherries and chokeberries grow as shrubs or small trees. Chokecherry trees can reach heights of up to 30 feet and produce clusters of white flowers followed by dark cherries. Chokeberries often grow in dense clusters and are borne on taller trees or shrubs with beautiful white or pink flowers.

What is the difference between the plant genus of chokecherries and chokeberries?

Chokecherry belongs to the genus Prunus, which includes other cherries, such as sour cherry. Chokeberries, however, are part of the Aronia genus, which includes several species of shrubs known for their tart fruits.

Can chokeberry or chokecherry be used as an ornamental plant?

Yes, both chokeberry and chokecherry can be used as ornamental plants. Their vibrant fruits, beautiful flowers, and colorful foliage make them popular choices for landscaping and add visual interest to gardens and public spaces.

Are there any other plants similar to chokecherries and chokeberries?

While chokecherries and chokeberries are distinct plants, there are other fruits with similar names, such as chokeberries related to the buckthorn family and photinia. However, these plants have different characteristics and uses.


Each plant holds its allure in the final tally, whether it’s chokeberry or chokecherry. Both provide vibrant visual appeal, and their fruits offer unique culinary and health benefits.

While chokeberries boast an antioxidant-rich profile, chokecherries bring a traditional flavor to cooked recipes. Both are versatile shrubs growing well in varied conditions, adding value and beauty to our environment. So next time you spot a chokeberry bush or a chokecherry tree, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking at and appreciate these plants’ merits.

Remember, when foraging or gardening, always identify plants correctly before consuming their fruits. And above all, enjoy the process of getting to know the wonderful world of chokeberries and chokecherries.


[1] Guohua Cao, Helaine M. Alessio, Richard G. Cutler, Oxygen-radical absorbance capacity assay for antioxidants, Free Radical Biology and Medicine, Volume 14, Issue 3, 1993, Pages 303-311, ISSN 0891-5849.

[2] U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. (April 2003). Plant fact sheet: Chokecherry Prunus virginiana L. Retrieved July 18, 2023.

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