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Chokeberries are often confused with chokecherries and vice versa. While they have similar names, these plants are quite different from each other. Everything from the way you can eat these plants to their plant genus is completely different.
Chokeberries and chokecherries aren’t the same because they have different flavors, toxicity, genus, size, seed number, and growth patterns. Chokeberries bear fruits until winter while chokecherries only give fruit during the fall. However, both plants belong to the Rosaceae family.
Throughout this post, we’ll break down the seven differences between chokeberries and chokecherries. We’ll also discuss a few must-know suggestions when growing or eating these plants.
Differences Between Chokeberries and Chokecherries
Although their names sound alike and their fruits look similar at first glance, it’s relatively easy to tell chokeberries and chokecherries apart based on several differences shown in the table below:
|Flavor||Earthy with a hint of sweetness||Tart and slightly sour|
|Toxicity||None||Bark, seeds, leaves|
|Size||8-10 feet (2.4 to 3 m)||up to 20 feet (6 m)|
|Growth Pattern (of fruits)||Cluster (at the tips of branches)||Cluster (along the length of a branch)|
|Fruiting Period||Fall to winter||Fall|
Let’s discuss these differences in more detail below:
Red Chokeberries are edible and are known for tasting earthy with a hint of sweetness if they’re picked at the right time. On the other hand, chokecherries are tart and slightly sour.
Both fruits aren’t comparable to traditional fruits you’re likely used to, such as apples, cherries, or strawberries. However, they can be eaten raw or mixed into jellies, wines, and more.
It’s important to note that neither fruit is considered sweet. While chokeberries have sweet undertones, they’re not sugary or syrupy in the least. That being said, they’re loaded with antioxidants and a plethora of essential vitamins and minerals.
While you can eat chokecherries, you shouldn’t consume their bark, seeds, or leaves. All of these parts are toxic due to their high cyanide content. Chokecherry toxins often lead to animal fatalities (source). They try to eat the fruit, not knowing the leaves and seeds are poisonous.
The good news is that you can easily remove a chokecherry’s seed without ingesting cyanide. These plants only have one seed, so all you have to do is pop it out and eat the fruit.
On the other hand, chokeberries don’t have many toxins. Still, you shouldn’t eat the leaves or seeds.
Chokeberry plants come from the Aronia genus. On the other hand, chokecherries come from the Prunus genus. The Prunus genus also includes plums, peaches, almonds, and more.
The Aronia and Prunus genera both come from the Rosaceae family, which means they’re distant relatives in plant terms.
However, Prunus and Aronia plants grow and act very differently. For example, they’re native to different parts of North America, they grow in slightly different soil conditions, and they don’t look the same when they’re fully grown.
Knowing your plant’s genus can help you improve its growing conditions while letting you know how to eat it.
Chokeberry bushes only grow to a fraction of the size of a chokecherry tree.
Chokeberry plants grow between eight to ten feet (2.4 to 3 m) tall (source).
On the other hand, chokecherry trees can grow up to 20 feet (6.1 m), making them tower over a chokeberry bush. The leaves, branches, and wood on a chokecherry tree are also much denser.
The sheer size of a chokecherry tree makes it more difficult to manage, not to mention the grouped fruit and dense limbs. It has a lot of delicious fruit and looks quite beautiful in any yard, though.
Keep in mind that you can prune a chokecherry tree to keep it much smaller. It’ll require occasional pruning, but it’s not necessarily required (as it is with most chokeberry bushes). Chokeberry bushes are easier to prune, thanks to their small, less dense structure.
Failure to prune a chokeberry plant will make it difficult for the inner stems and leaves to get enough sunlight. (See Does Pruning Stimulate Growth? You Need To Understand This!)
Chokecherries have one center seed, making them stone fruits. Other stone fruits include peaches, apricots, and plums. The single seed makes it very easy to remove the toxicity from the fruit. The seeds are also rather tough, so you’re unlikely to accidentally bite into one without knowing it.
Conversely, chokeberries have multiple seeds. In fact, this is the quickest way to know the difference between these plants. Cut them down to the center and count the seeds. If there’s more than one seed, it’s a chokeberry.
Chokecherries also turn dark red or black over time, whereas red chokeberries stay red.
One of the quickest ways to differentiate chokeberries from chokecherries is to look at how the fruit grows. A quick analysis will show that chokeberries grow in clusters at the tips of the branches, whereas chokecherries grow vertically along the length of a branch.
Both plants are easy to harvest. All you have to do is pull a cluster from the tree.
When removing chokecherries, make sure that you don’t leave any berries or seeds on the ground. They can be very dangerous for birds and other animals looking for a quick snack. Conversely, it’s not a big deal if you accidentally leave a few chokeberries on the ground.
Both plants yield suckers that grow around the base of the plant. Remove the suckers to ensure they don’t take the nutrients and moisture intended for the main bush or tree.
Aronia berries hold onto their stems much longer than chokecherries. While both plants yield fruit in the fall, chokeberries can last well into the winter.
On the other hand, most chokecherry plants will lose all their fruits at the beginning of the winter. Not only does this make Aronia berries more viable for year-round gardeners, but it also makes them easier to manage.
Combining the flavor, growth patterns, and size of both plants, chokeberries tend to be the better choice. They also don’t have extremely toxic seeds and leaves, which is essential if you have pets and family members near the plants.
While these plants are quite dissimilar, they’re both native to North America. Their similar names, locations, and appearances (for younger plants) often lead to misnaming. However, they’re both worth growing, harvesting, and eating if you remove the seeds.