Wild choke cherry- Zone 1
Characteristics of the tree
With their distinctive astringent flavour, choke cherries are often overlooked these days but have a long history of use dating back to before European settlement of North America.
They have been a staple of aboriginal diets for hundreds of years, and make some of the very best preserves, jams, jellies, syrups, and fruit leathers; all the while delivering great nutritional value.
Depending on one’s taste buds, they can also be rather enjoyable to eat fresh off the tree!
Choke cherries are amazingly cold-hardy, growing all the way up to zone 1. They are also particularly adaptable plants, with a long history of use in North America. Their native range that extends across Canada from coast to coast, and down through to the central United States.
They will manifest as either a small tree or in northern regions more often a shrub. While they can reach heights of up to 9 metres, they will more often develop a shorter and bushier form, with large spreads, occasionally up to 4 metres.
Choke cherries will thrive in almost any conditions, growing well in poor soil and all but the greatest extremes of wet and dry. They have relatively short lifespans: 40 years is a reasonable expectation. However, their vigorous suckering habit usually sustains any plantation well beyond this.
It is worth noting that choke cherries can, in fact, be invasive; particularly if planted in their ideal conditions (well-drained soil with plenty of sunlight.) It is ideal to plant them in areas where little else can grow; as part of a land-reclamation project or to help control erosion.
Choke cherries have red-brown to grey-brown bark with a smooth texture that will eventually become scaly. The leaves are dark green or dark red finely toothed ovals, 8-10 cm long. In May, they produce an abundance of elongated, cylindric clusters of white flowers that transform into berries from late July to August.
Chokecherry trees themselves possess both ornamental and functional merit. As an ornamental they are very attractive plants, most valued for their extreme cold-hardiness with which other ornamental plants cannot compete.
From a functional standpoint, their ability to thrive in poor soils, as well as their extensive root system, make them a great choice for land reclamation and erosion control projects.
They can also be very effectively employed as a part of shelterbelt plantations. Beloved by wildlife, choke cherries will definitely attract a host of birds and mammals looking to enjoy their bountiful fruit and the protection of their branches.
Our choke cherries are all seedlings of wild varieties, but they come from different sources, hence the variety of choices available above!
The ‘yellow fruit’ chokecherries are in fact seedlings of a mother tree with yellow fruit. This means that it is highly possible – but not guaranteed – that the seedlings themselves will also produce yellow berries. Since the mother tree was open pollinated, it may have been pollinated by black choke cherry trees, hence the seedlings may carry their genetic as well.
These yellow-fruit seedlings are available in two sizes: 1-3 feet, and 3-5 feet. Those that are 1-3 feet tall are also available at a discount for purchasing them in bulk: either as a package of 5, or a package of 10.
The red-leaved chokecherries are seedlings of a mother tree with particularly attractive red leaves, which may be ideal for ornamental purposes. They are available in two sizes: 1-3 feet, and 3-5 feet tall. We do not have bulk discounts available for them, however.
The black fruit chokecherries are seedlings of wild choke cherries with purple-black fruit. They are available in the size 1-3 feet, or 3-5 feet, and are not available to buy in bulk at this time.
Choke cherry is fast-growing. Depending on its growing conditions, it can grow either as a small, bushy tree, or a shrub. (Tending more towards a ‘bushy’ form in colder climates.) It will reach around 3 metres in height at maturity, with a similar spread. This illustration shows a 20-year-old choke cherry that has attained its maximum height.
You should note that this illustration is meant only to give a general indication of what you can expect, and the growth of your tree might look somewhat different. The development of a tree depends on the soil type, irrigation, fertilisation and climatic conditions. What we show here is based on our observation of the growth of choke cherry in zone 4, in rather poor soil. In zone 2, growth will probably be slower, while in a rich soil it could be faster.
All our choke cherry trees are sold bare-root, without pots. They have been cultivated directly in our soil. Bare-root trees must be taken out of the ground and shipped during their period of dormancy, which is why we only ship trees in the spring. A big advantage with these kinds of trees is that they take up very little space, and can therefore be easily shipped by mail all over Canada!
This photograph shows a 3-foot choke cherry tree, just like one that you might receive. Depending on the height you choose at the time of purchase, the tree might be somewhat taller (3-5 feet). It might also be somewhat smaller (closer to 1 foot) depending on availability at the time of order preparation.