Untouched Colour/color Photograph by J. McCombie.
Aronia, the chokeberries, are two to three species of deciduous shrubs in the family Rosaceae, native to eastern North America. They are most commonly found in wet woods and swamps. Chokeberries are cultivated as ornamental plants and also because they are very high in antioxidant pigment compounds, like anthocyanins. The name “chokeberry” comes from the astringency of the fruits, which are inedible when raw. The berries can be used to make wine, jam, syrup, juice, soft spreads, tea and tinctures. The fruits are eaten by birds, which then disperse the seeds in their droppings; birds do not taste astringency and feed on them freely.
The chokeberries are often mistakenly called chokecherries, which is the common name for Prunus virginiana. Further adding to the ambiguity, there is a cultivar of Prunus virginiana named ‘Melanocarpa’, easily confused with Aronia melanocarpa. Chokecherries are also high in antioxidant pigment compounds, like anthocyanins, further contributing to confusion. In fact, the two plants are only distantly related within the Rosaceae.
The leaves are alternate, simple, and oblanceolate with crenate margins and pinnate venation; in autumn the leaves turn a bold red color. Dark trichomes are present on the upper midrib surface. The flowers are small, with 5 petals and 5 sepals, and produced in corymbs of 10-25 together. Hypanthium is urn-shaped. The fruit is a small pome, with a very astringent flavor.