Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), Truckee River, Reno. Photo: K. McCutcheon.

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) in bloom near the Truckee River in May. Photo: Kelsey McCutcheon.

Prunus virginiana 
  • Leaves: Dark green, 1-3” long, alternate, with serrated edges.
  • Flowers: Small, white, 5-petaled, and hang off of cylindrical “racemes” (April – June).
  • Fruits: Hanging bunches of small, round, black/purple berries (August).

Record Observations

Species Description:

The name “chokecherry” might not make you want to gobble down handful after handful, but the sour fruits of this shrub are prized by birds, small mammals, and large mammals like mule deer, coyotes, and bears, which later do a return service to the bush by distributing the seeds. The leaves of the chokecherry are toxic to livestock – they contain a chemical called hydrocyanic acid (cyanide). The berries are edible by humans, and with aid of sugar, can be made into good jams, pies, baked goods, and wine. Berries can also be dehydrated and added to yogurt, cereal, deserts, cookies… (Mozingo, 1987) (Moore, 2003)

Additional Images:


Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) with unripe berries in Verdi, NV. June 2009.

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) with unripe berries in Verdi, NV. June 2009.

Photos & Information needed!

Do you have information on this species, or original photographs taken locally?  If so, please contribute photos and observations here, or email information to Thanks!



Moore, M. (2003). Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West (Revised and Expanded Edition ed.). Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press.

Mozingo, H. N. (1987). Shrubs of the Great Basin: A Natural History. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press.

Murphey, E. V. (1959). Indian Uses of Native Plants. Fort Bragg, CA: Mendocino County Historical Society.

USDA. (2015). Prunus virginiana, Chokecherry.

Vizgirdas, R. S., & Rey-Visgirdas, E. M. (2006). Wild Plants of the Sierra Nevada. Reno: University of Nevada Press.



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