No, you are not the only one who thinks chokecherry and black cherry fruits look almost the same. How can you distinguish between the two? Are the plants similar as well? Can you expect similar nutritional benefits and other uses from these fruits? You will get the answers in our detailed chokecherry vs black cherry analysis.
Chokecherry vs Black Cherry: Side By Side Comparison
|Scientific Name||Prunus virginian||Prunus serotina|
|Grows In Cluster||Yes||Yes|
|Blooming Season||July/ August||August/September|
|Seed Type||Single Stone||Single Stone|
|Tree Size||Usually 30 Feet||Usually More Than 60 Feet|
Chokecherry vs. Black Cherry: What Makes Them Different?
Chokecherries and black cherries share a lot of similarities. The fruits are similar, as we previously mentioned. Both are toxic and can even be lethal; they grow in clusters and belong to the same genera. Despite all the resemblances, some differentiating factors set these two apart.
Chokecherries grow in shrubs. The shrubs usually grow 20 to 30 feet long. In some very rare cases, you might come across chokecherry shrubs that are almost 60 feet long. Do remember to bring out your phone and grab a snap because you will not get to see such humongous chokecherry shrubs regularly.
Chokecherry bark is paper-thin, dark gray or brown, and relatively smooth, with only a few widely spaced wavy ridges running roughly the tree’s length. The bark also has oval-shaped lenticels about 1/8 to 1/4 inch long. Some of these lenticels have slits, which expose a reddish-brown color inside.
The white flowers of chokecherry shrubs have an unpleasant aroma and are produced in hanging spikes. The thin brown twigs also have a harsh taste and an unpleasant odor. The bark is brown or gray and smooth when the tree is young, but it gets scaly as it gets older. The fruit’s color ranges from dark red to black. The color gets darker as the fruits rip.
While black cherry trees will not rival the tallest trees you will find across North America, they can grow pretty tall. You can expect them to grow 60-80 feet or even more. Lenticels, which are found horizontally throughout the tree’s bark, are a distinctive feature. The bark of an old tree takes on a scaly or flaky appearance.
Small, white flowers bloom in the spring. In the late summer, you will get to see fruits on the tree. It’s red initially, and like its cousin chokecherry, the color gets darker over time. When it falls off, the fruit becomes almost black. Hence the name black cherry. Before turning black, the fruit is deep purple in color.
Another unique feature of black cherry is its alternate, simple leaves, which are two to six inches long, consistently wide to lance-shaped, pointy at the tip, and have fine teeth that curve inward toward the leaf tip. The leaf’s lower surface is a milder shade of green, while the upper surface is glossy and dark green.
Chokecherries and black cherries are two of the most common species among North American flora. Apart from the southeastern regions of the United States and adjacent Canadian territories, you will find chokecherries all over North America. Don’t be surprised if you see chokecherries in southeast North America as well, but they are not common there.
Black cherries grow best in the eastern regions of North America. So, we are talking about places like Nova Scotia, southern Quebec, and Ontario on the Canadian side of the border. In the states, Michigan, eastern Minnesota, eastern Nebraska, central Florida, Texas, and southern Iowa are black cherry hotspots.
Chokecherries bloom earlier than black cherries. They should hit maturity by late July or early August. Black cherries follow suit a few weeks later. So, if you are having a hard time identifying whether a fruit is chokecherry or black cherry, just consider what time of the year it is. It should give you the answer.
Chokecherries taste bitter, and many would find them unappetizing. Some variants can be more palatable than others. You can expect a mildly sweet flavor in a ripened chokecherry. However, you can make the taste much better with preparation. That’s why you might love chokecherry wine or jam, even if you are not a great fan of the fruit itself.
Black cherry tastes far sweeter than chokecherry. They do have a slightly acidic flavor, but it combines with the sweetness pretty well and produces a unique taste that many would find delicious. They also have a fantastic aftertaste which gives them an edge over other similar fruits.
Chokecherry can be eaten raw, but because of its harsh taste, most people prefer treated chokecherry. So, it’s a popular ingredient for syrups, jams, and wine. Besides their culinary use, chokecherries have been in use as home remedies for many common ailments for hundreds of years.
Many native Indian tribes used to eat raw chokecherries. They knew about the poisonous nature of the seeds, so they would dispose of them. The Indians also used to dissolve chokecherry barks in warm and cold water to treat headaches, fever, and heart problems. Modern science ruled out the effectiveness of most of these treatments.
But that doesn’t mean chokecherries don’t have any medicinal properties at all. It’s used to make cough syrup as chokecherries can relieve common cold symptoms. You will find many home-remedy recipes with chokecherries online, and most of them work pretty well. Also, chokecherries are also for decorating gardens.
Black cherry is more popular as a raw edible fruit than chokecherry because of its extra sweetness. It’s also used for making desserts. Wine aficionados would know that black cherry is a popular flavoring agent for brandy and rum. But, being a delicious source of nourishment for humans and wildlife is not the only thing black cherry has to offer.
Black cherry wood is a premium furniture material. The beautiful reddish-brown color of the black cherry wood adds a touch of elegance to any furniture piece. What about the build quality? Is it strong enough to make durable cabinetwork? It’s one of the sturdiest woods you will find in North America.
On top of it, the closed-grain nature of black cherry wood accounts for smoother finishes and easier preparation. Contractors use black cherry wood for paneling. It is also used for craftwork. Black cherry wood is also used for industrial manufacturing. So, black cherry wood is always in high demand.
Black cherries and chokecherries have many things in common. We already knew that the fruits are almost identical, but now that we got to know more about these species, we can see that the similarities extend beyond the looks. They can produce toxins, have the same medicinal applications same type of seed, and thrives in similar conditions.
But there are some more than subtle differences. The trees look vastly different, mainly the leaves. They taste slightly different as well. If you have been reading our chokecherry vs black cherry discussion from the start, you should not have any problem to tell them apart. Black cherry and chokecherries are closely related, but they are not the same.
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