Chokecherry and chokeberry are often thought to be the same, but in reality, they are two different species. What attributes set apart these seemingly identical fruits? We have put together a comprehensive Chokecherry vs Chokeberry discussion so that you can decide which one you should choose for your garden.
Chokecherry vs Chokeberry: Side By Side Comparison
|Scientific Name||Prunus virginian||Aronia melanocarpa|
|Grows In Cluster||Yes||No|
|Blooming Season||Mid Fall||Mid Winter|
|Seed Type||Single Stone||Multiple Tiny Seeds|
Chokecherry vs Chokeberry: What Makes Them Different?
Chokecherry and Chokeberry both belong to the Rosaceae family of plants, but they are not as closely related as you might have initially thought. They come from different genera, so many distinctive features differentiate them. Let’s get into a bit more detail and find out how we can tell them apart.
Chokeberries are roughly the size of a pea, and they are purple in color. Berries develop individually on their stems but in dense bunches. These clusters typically consist of two to twenty chokeberries. The bush has no thorns, but the leaves have sharp points. The leaves will have turned a brilliant shade of red just in time for harvest.
In their fully grown state, chokeberry shrubs can get as tall as 20 feet. The leaves are oval-shaped and naturally green. Chokecherry flowers form long racemes or tassels and are often white with yellow centers. The fruits are small; they are bright colored when they first appear and continue to get darker over time. Chokeberries could be purple, black, or red.
Chokecherries have a reddish-purple color and look like teeny-tiny cherries. Chokecherry grows in clusters, as opposed to chokeberries. Chokecherries cannot survive past mid-October, while chokeberries stay on the bushes well into the winter months. The easiest way to identify chokecherry is that it has a single stone inside rather than multiple tiny seeds.
Chokecherries can get even taller than chokeberry shrubs. Like chokeberries, chokecherry fruits have a bright color at first. By the time they fall off the plant, they become darker. Chokecherries have many monikers. They are also known as Virginia bird berries, bird cherries, and bitter berries.
You will find hydrocyanic acid, aka prussic acid, in the leaves of chokecherry bushes and the seeds inside chokecherries. Hydrocyanic acid releases deadly cyanide when it comes in contact with water. Only eating a tiny amount of chokecherries can be lethal for farm animals. They can become severely ill if they eat chokecherries below lethal levels.
Ruminants are especially vulnerable to the toxicity of chokecherries. We are talking about animals that have a specialized stomach where food goes first before making it to the digestive system. All livestock animals have this segmented stomach system. Wild herbivores like bison, deer, and giraffe are also susceptible to chokecherry poisoning.
Chokecherry leaves are most dangerous when they are wilted. While wilting, hydrocyanic acid converts to cyanogenic glycoside, which gives the leaves a sugary flavor. When the leaves go inside the mouth, the enzymes bring out the cyanide, and it starts to take effect. There are many documented cases of children’s deaths after eating chokecherry seeds.
Toxic doses (0.25% of body weight) must be consumed by an animal within 30 minutes to 1 hour for poisoning to be deadly. Discomfort, a bluish tint to the mouth, rapid breathing, excessive salivation, jerking muscles, unconsciousness, and death are all symptoms of chokecherry poisoning.
On the other hand, Chokeberries don’t have hydrocyanic acid or any other toxic elements. It’s 100% edible. That said, some people might have allergic reactions after consuming chokeberries. But these are very rare cases. Chokeberries are not listed as a common allergen. So, you should be safe taking them.
Chokeberries are rich in anthocyanin, which is known for its anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and heart-friendly properties. Nutritionists also believe that chokeberries can play a vital role in boosting your immune system. Therefore, you should add them to your diet without any hesitation. If you want to be 100% safe, talk to your nutritionist.
There could be half a dozen tiny seeds inside chokeberry seeds. You might not even notice that you have digested them while eating the fruit. You will only find one seed in chokecherry after peeling off the flesh. This seed is called a stone. In biology, fruits that have a stone in their center are called drupes. So, like peaches and almonds, chokeberries are also drupes.
Both chokecherries and chokeberries are endemic to North America. But they are not found all across the territory. You will not see chokecherries in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and other southeastern North American regions. They are abundant in other parts of North America. So, you should check for chokecherries around your farm to ensure livestock safety.
Chokeberries are not that widespread. They are mostly limited to the East Coast and nearby Canadian areas. In other regions, chokeberries are pretty rare. The US Department of Agriculture recommends planting chokeberries in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3-8. So, it wouldn’t be wise to plant them in your garden if you live outside these areas.
It might sound surprising, but chokecherry still has some culinary uses. Other than the stems, leaves, and stone, chokecherry is considered safe for consumption. It does not taste as sweet as chokeberry, however. It has a bitter taste. Wines, jams, jellies, and syrups are the most common food and drinks made from chokecherry.
Many native North American communities relied on chokecherries as a primary source of nutrition. Raw or dried berries were often combined with pemmican for a hearty meal. Chokecherries were a staple food for the Jicarilla Apaches, so they dried some and made cakes out of them to eat during the colder months.
Fresh fruit was mashed and turned into jelly, syrup, or cherry wine by letting it ferment. Both the bark and the roots were used to make tea. They also used the bark and the fruit for treating many ailments. Chokecherry is still used in modern-day medicine. Its bark is used to make cough syrup. Some gardeners also groom chokecherry bushes for ornamental purposes.
Chokeberries are popular ingredients for jams, syrups, and juices. They add incredible flavor to desserts like cakes, muffins, pies, and tarts. You can also dry chokeberries and make chokeberry raisins, which has a sweet and sour taste. Dried chokeberries can be eaten on their own as a healthy but delicious snack, or you can use them as dessert toppings.
Chokecherry and chokeberry have their unique traits, which makes them widely different from each other. The names do sound close, but they are not botanically close. Chokecherries used to be eaten frequently in the past. People were aware of its poisonous nature, but they knew how to get around it.
But nowadays, you will not find chokecherries in many supermarket shelves. Chokeberries are more common, and they are much safer. Chokecherry has adequate nutritional value, but eating them is too much of a risk to take. Chokeberries taste better, have higher mineral and nutrient presence, and poses little to no threat to our health.
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