An endangered species in Ohio, red chokeberry is gorgeous in all seasons and provides a high level of support for local wildlife. It typically grows 6-12 feet tall with a vase-shaped form and stiff, upright habit. Masses of fragrant, showy, white to pink flowers bloom happily April through May, contrasting beautifully with shiny green leaves that turn a brilliant orange-red in fall. The flowers are followed by berries that ripen to bright red and persist through winter. Once the leaves fall, multiple stems with attractive, peeling, red-brown bark provide warm winter accents. Red chokeberry makes a wonderful substitute for the non-native, invasive burning bush that can only claim two weeks of beauty in fall. It grows slowly and spreads by seeds and suckers to form colonies. It's often used in mass plantings as it tends to become leggy with age. Pruning is best done late winter to early spring.
The species name, arbutifolia, means "with leaves like Arbutus," which is a genus of small trees and shrubs that have edible fruit. The common name, chokeberry, refers to the tart and bitter berries. Aronia comes from the Greek word "aria."
Native habitats include pine bottomlands, swamps, and open bogs. Stunning when planted in clusters in pollinator or winter gardens.
Grows 6-10' tall and 3-6’ wide.
Blooms and fruits most profusely in full sun, but tolerates partial shade.
Prefers average to wet clay or loamy soils. Tolerates wet sites and flooding.
One-inch flowers bloom along the branches in May. The blooms form white or pink corymbs with red anthers and 5 petals.
Elliptical- to obovate-shaped leaves are 1 - 3 1/2" long with serrated margins. The undersides are grayish-green and pubescent. October foliage may be orange, pink, red, or burgundy.
Multi-stemmed trunk has thin, smooth, reddish-brown, and exfoliating bark that adds color to the garden during the winter months. Mature bark becomes grayish brown.
Red chokeberry is a host plant for numerous species of Lepidoptera, including the coral hairstreak butterfly (pictured here) and the Catacala praeclara underwing moth. At least 30 species of pollinators have been documented feeding on the nectar and pollen. The fruit is eaten by 40 species of birds and other wildlife.
Medicinal, Edible and Other Uses:
Red chokeberries are high in protein and contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that protect the heart and blood vessels and reduce swelling and blood sugar levels. Native Americans used the berries as a cold remedy.
Aronia berries are one of the richest plant sources of anthocyanins. Extensive research has shown that anthocyanins have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that provide a wide array of health benefits, including glucose regulation, in-vitro cancer-cell suppression, hepatoprotection, and antimicrobial action. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17408071/
Potawatomi used the berries when making pemmican (a mixture of meat, tallow and dried berries), and the bark and berries were also used as an astringent.
Aronia berries are sold as a superfood and are often used to make jams, jellies, and wine. Red chokeberries are considered more palatable raw than the black chokeberries.
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