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You may guess from the name that Black Chokeberry fruits aren’t terribly appetizing. One taste will confirm it—they’re extremely astringent! Even the birds avoid them… for a while. When the fruits ripen in mid- to late summer, there are lots of better things for birds to eat, and they pass them by, but by midwinter, stores of fresh fruit are dwindling, and they take another look. Then, the robins, mockingbirds, Blue Jays, and Cedar Waxwings are grateful for a meal of chokeberries! In the country, Ruffed Grouse and turkeys may feed on the berries, too.
Black Chokeberry is a superfood! That’s right—the bitter berry with the unappetizing name is actually gaining ground as a health food. And with good reason! The berries are higher in antioxidants than any other cold-hardy fruit (five times higher than blueberries), and they have cancer-fighting properties. A few companies have started turning chokeberries into juice; they blend it with apple or grape juice to make it palatable. You’ll find it marketed under its botanical name, Aronia. You can also buy frozen Aronia berries for muffins or bars… or better yet, grow your own!
With its blazing orange-red fall color, our native Chokeberry has been suggested as a more eco-friendly alternative to the ubiquitous Burning Bush, which has become invasive in many parts of the U.S. We think this is a great idea!
How to Grow
Found in both wet and dry sites in many parts of the Northeast, Midwest, and Upper South, Black Chokeberry is adaptable and easy to please. It does best in full sun, but part shade is acceptable, too. Over time, this plant will spread via suckers, but it is not a rampant grower. One issue you may want to address is its natural habit of becoming bare of leaves at the base. If you don’t care for this look, you can simply plant a low-growing Spirit or Fringe in front of it.
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