November: Chokeberry

Chokeberry may not sound like a plant you want in your yard, but this medium-to-large native shrub has pleasant spring flowers, attractive (and edible!) berries, and simply stunning orange to red fall color.

Chokeberries are available in two different species: red chokeberry and black chokeberry. As you may guess, one has red berries and the other has black berries (more of a very dark purple, really). The red chokeberry is taller and narrower with less dense branching, and the black chokeberry has a low and spreading habit with foliage that is dense all the way to the ground. Both have berries that are edible when fully ripe, but the flavor is very bitter. They can be turned into jellies and pie fillings for a sweeter taste. We like to recommend chokeberries as an alternative to the popular burning bush, since burning bush is widely considered to be invasive. Chokeberries also provide a more nutritional fall snack for our birds than burning bush.

Common Name: Red Chokeberry and Black Chokeberry

Scientific Name: Aronia arbutifolia and Aronia melanocarpa

Notable Varieties: 'Brilliantissima', 'Autumn Magic' (both are more compact than the species with better fall color)

Light: full sun to part shade

Size: A. arbutifolia 6-8' tall and 3-4' wide; A. melanocarpa 3-6' tall and 4-7' wide

Soil: tolerant of many soil conditions, including clay and wet soils

Blooms: small white clusters of flowers bloom briefly in April-May

Other Notes: attractive red or black berries depending on species; both can spread by suckers to form a dense colony - suckers should be removed if you want individual shrubs; pollinators like flowers

See other plants of the month.

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