Updated at: 23-02-2023 - By: Sienna Lewis

A little knowledge of chokecherry bushes is required if one wishes to grow them in Colorado. A related of the ponderosa pine, willow alder, snowberry, and aspen is the chokecherry (also known as chokeberry). Mountain canyons, sheltered hill slopes, streambanks, gullies, and drainage systems all include big suckering plants like this one.

In North America, especially in Canada and much of the United States, this species of plant has oval-shaped leaves and is native. There are 47 of the 64 Colorado counties where it can be found in elevations between 4,500 and 10,000 feet. Aspen, cottonwood, and pion pine are common scattered among the ponderosa pine, juniper, scrub oak, and other coniferous trees.

Before turning purple-black with a pit in the middle, chokecherry bushes produce creamy white blossoms that develop into dark red meaty fruits. Even though chokecherries can reach a height of 41 feet, the majority of plants are just 12 feet tall.

Can You Eat Chokecherry Fruit?

Chokecherry fruit can be highly sour if eaten uncooked. However, you can use it to produce jams, jellies, wines, and syrups that are both delicious and nutritious. Consuming fresh seeds or wilted leaves of this plant might be dangerous because they contain cyanide.

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What are Chokecherries Good for?

Chokecherry bark can be used to flavor cough syrups and treat diarrhea. It can be used to treat cold sores and canker sores if its fruit is added to pemmican.

Rheumatism and colds can be relieved by drinking tea made from the plant’s dried leaves and twigs. Lastly, the wood can be utilized to build high-quality bows, arrows, and pipes.

How Can You Grow Chokecherries from Seed?

Before you can plant your seeds in the early spring, you need to store them in the refrigerator for three months. Use a light, medium, or loamy soil that is moist yet well-drained. Acidic, neutral, or basic soil can all be used.

Chokecherries thrive in either direct sunlight or light shade. Seeds can be sown at a depth of about half an inch in the spring. For outdoor plantings, make sure there is enough room for the plant to grow.

How Long Does It Take for Chokecherry Bush to Grow?

A chokecherry shrub might take up to 18 months to begin to grow and produce outshoots. As a result, you shouldn’t expect immediate outcomes.

If you’re going to sow chokecherry seed outside, be careful to completely weed the area first. It’s essential to keep the area weed-free, especially within the plant’s first three years of life, because chokecherries find it difficult to survive if they have to compete with the weeds around them.

What Eats Chokecherries?

Black bears in Colorado enjoy eating chokecherries. These bears eat 20 to 30 pounds of chokecherry fruit and acorns every day to meet their daily caloric needs and maintain their desired denning weight. A single pound of chokecherries contains approximately 1,500 of the berries.

Grouse, squirrels, raccoons and roosters, chipmunks, wild turkeys, coyotes, deer and foxes are among the other creatures that enjoy chokecherries. Woodpeckers, grosbeaks, jays, and robins are also among the chokecherry eaters.

Are Chokecherries Poisonous to Dogs?

They are, without a doubt. The cyanide poisoning can occur if your dog, or any of your pets, eats chokecherry leaves that have been bruised, wilted, or even desiccated. Symptoms of cyanide poisoning in dogs include difficulty breathing, dilated pupils, shock, bright red gums, and death if they are not treated within minutes of intake.

Can I Plant Chokecherry Bush in Colorado Greenhouses?

This is possible, of course. Before moving them outside, you can put them in small or medium-sized pots. Keeping the soil moist, but not soggy, is all that’s required.

You, your chokecherry bush, and your other plants will all benefit from greenhouse gardening for the following reasons:

It creates a safe haven for your plants

You can shield your plants from the elements, seasonal pests and animals that may try to harm them in a greenhouse, whether you’re growing delicate ornamentals or sturdy veggies.

It serves as a multipurpose environment

A greenhouse is more than just a place to grow plants; it may be used for a variety of other things, as well. As an example, you might use it to keep your gardening tools, accessories, and equipment in a safe, organized place.

Southwest Colorado Wildflowers, Prunus virginiana

You’ll get to Save Money on Grocery Bills

Having a greenhouse allows you to cultivate your own fruits and veggies. Now you can enjoy year-round fresh food for less money at the grocery store.

You’ll Gain More Control Over Your Produce

You’ll save money on groceries via greenhouse gardening, but you’ll also be eating better because you’ll be eating food that you grew yourself. Your plants’ growing environment may be controlled in a greenhouse, so you can avoid using dangerous pesticides and other chemicals that could affect your health.

If you think that you’re ready to grow chokecherry bush in Colorado, why don’t you give greenhouse gardening a shot? It’s well worth the money.

Make Chokecherries a Part of Your Summer Jam

A specialty of the Southwest is chokecherry preserves. There is a subtle earthy flavor to the jellies, jams, and syrups, as well as an intense berry sweetness. A fine wine or geological strata can be compared to the tastes in this dish, which are layered with sweetness, spice, nuttiness, and grassiness. If the berries had a spokesman, it would be a refined debutante who fled to the mountains to study the wacky wisdom of the Earth.

It’s worth the effort to get that elusive, exquisite flavor. Your pantry shelf will soon be filled with jars of chokecherry jelly, shimmering with a magenta sheen, if you’ve ever made pints.

As a result, the process of preparing chokecherry jelly is so time-consuming that you tend to view other popular jellies—raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, for example—as ridiculously simple.

At the supermarket, chokecherries are not available. Before you can find a chokecherry tree packed with accommodating fruit, you have to scavenge the hillsides like a ravenous black bear. Seed and flesh are intertwined in those little purple spheres, so removing one without disturbing the other is like pulling a lovey from under a sleeping toddler. For example, 9 cups of finished jelly can be made from 26 cups of fruit. A collection of nine incredibly rare and valuable mugs.

Attending a wedding and not jumping to your feet when the cover band thumps the first chords of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” would be like attending a wedding and not jumping to your feet when the band starts playing.


The rose family includes chokecherries (Prunus virginiana), as well as apples, cherries, apricots, pears, and a slew of other well-loved and widely planted fruit trees. Lenticels, which appear on the bark of chokecherries, can range in color from the grey to the crimson that is commonly found on these trees (horizontal pores through which gases are exchanged). They are oval in shape, with a pointy tip, and have a consistent and mild serration.

Chokecherries blossom in the writer’s backyard. Rick Scibelli Jr. took this picture.

Early spring brings many racemes or clusters of tight white flowers, and by the end of the month of September, dangling fruit decorate the Colorado slopes. During the ripening process, the hue of the berries darkens to practically black. When they’re picked just from the tree, the flavor is sweet and slightly cotton-ball-like. The scientific term for this is astringent. My children’s taste buds are a mystery to them, and they consume them by the handful of raw vegetables.

In the wild, chokecherries are usually considered shrubs, but if they are lucky enough to live beside a stream, they can grow into 15-foot-tall trees that provide shade for a deer or a picnicking family. With a range of elevations ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 feet, chokecherries can be found alongside scrub oak, pine, juniper, cottonwoods and aspens. They can be found in 47 of Colorado’s 64 counties, mostly beside streams. Except in the extreme north and south, chokecherries can be found all over North America. Fortunately for us, though, the western berries are regarded as the sweetest.


In the diet of many Western Native American tribes, chokecherries were the most significant fruit crop, and the berries (including the protein- and fat-rich seed) were crushed and dried to form pemmican, a dried, portable, and necessary snack, which was mixed with meat. The Ute people referred to this plant simply as “berry” because of its high economic value to them. Chokecherry juice, according to Native American Ethnobotany by Daniel E. Moerman, was reserved for the Blackfoot tribe’s preferred husbands and children.

Anthocyanins, a group of phytochemicals or flavonoids responsible for the fruit’s purple color, are found in high concentrations in chokecherries. Anthocyanins have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities, as well as being free-radical scavengers. Reduces capillary permeability, maintains the integrity of blood vessel walls, strengthens membranes and changes the development of hormone-dependent illness (such as breast or ovarian cancer). A number of studies have shown anthocyanins to significantly inhibit tumor development and cancer cell proliferation, as well as improve night vision.


Chokecherry preserves were an essential part of the food supply for Colorado pioneer households. In order to avoid what O’Hara’s Jams and Jellies owner Katie O’Hara Barrett describes the most labor demanding jam in her commercial fruit preserves repertoire, there are a number of ways to obtain real Colorado chokecherry preserves.

It’s a messy job for the writer’s daughter to extract the juice from chokecherries. Rachel Turiel took the image.

A flat of domestically grown chokecherries cannot be delivered to a commercial kitchen at any time of the year, making these preserves unique. Chokecherries are used by wild creatures and must be sought out in ditches, hillsides, creeks, and alleys much like they are by humans.

Each season, O’Hara’s Jams and Jellies in Durango, which has been in operation for 24 years, purchases between 1,400 and 2,000 pounds of fresh, hand-picked chokecherries. There are bags, buckets, and crates of berries delivered to Katie’s farm. One year we put an ad in the newspaper for berries, and now people just bring them to us each year. “Our finest picker is in his seventies.”

Despite having to “boil, boil, boil, then smush, smush, smush [the berries] all by hand,” Katie Barrett, who owns the firm with her husband Jim O’Hara Barrett, says it’s worth it. Among our best-selling items is this local favorite. Plus, our kitchen smells like chokecherries when we’re preparing jam or syrup from them. And that’s a good thing, she says.


To reach denning weight, Colorado black bears must eat 20,000 calories per day in the autumn. Chokecherries are a great food source for bears because of their abundance and proximity to acorns. In the fall, bears may eat 20 to 30 pounds of berries and acorns daily. According to Bear Smart Durango’s Bryan Peterson, 1,500 chokecherries are required to produce a pound of chokecherries. Chokecherries by the bucketload.

Wild turkeys, grouse, raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, foxes, coyotes, and deer are also known to enjoy the chokecherry fruit. It’s a common sight to witness birds spit out the fruit flesh for the reward of a fat and protein-rich seed in late autumn. Evening grosbeaks, robins, thrushes, jays, and woodpeckers are stealing the high berries that the rest of us can’t get our hands on.


The chokecherry appears to have been used in a variety of ways by different Native American tribes. For stomachaches, the Navajo infused fresh berries. berry juice was popular among the Blackfoot people for treating ailments like diarrhea and sore throats. Berry juice was used to treat postpartum bleeding in Arikara women. To stop bleeding, the Sioux used dried root poultices.

An ingredient in the National Formulary of the United States Pharmacopeia from 1820 to 1970 was chokecherry. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark also noted in their journals that Captain Lewis had stomach problems and a fever when camped on the upper Missouri River. His recovery was complete the next day when he created a tea out of chokecherry twigs.

Clinical herbalist and owner of Dancing Willow Herbs, Debra Reuben, uses chokecherry to treat respiratory ailments. In addition to its ability to release mucus and make expectoration simpler, Reuben says that the inner bark of the chokecherry tree soothes coughs by calming the spasms of the smooth muscles involved in coughing. The nervous system is supported by chokecherry, thus it can help alleviate the anxiety that comes with coughing uncontrollably.

An adult chokecherry tincture is made by Reuben, and a child-friendly version is a syrup. When it comes to medication, Reuben points out that small diameter branches or recently fallen branches can be used. The bark medicine can be found on even the tiniest of twigs. It is best to harvest chokecherry limbs in the fall, when the cherries are mature, because the bark contains high quantities of cyanide in spring, which migrates into the pit as the summer continues.

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Hydrocyanic acid is found in seeds and wilted leaves. An enzyme that breaks down hydrocyanic acid is released when the seeds are mashed or pulverized. However, it is undeniable that Native American tribes ate many seeds because they would ground the berries whole to blend with meat and dry in “sun cakes” or pemmican. The hydrocyanic acid is apparently harmful. Wilted leaves have killed livestock, yet deer, elk, bighorn sheep, moose, and other ungulates eat the leaves without issue. Wilted leaves have killed livestock.


The chokecherry tree, according to the encyclopedic book Natural American Ethnobotany, is the second most useful native plant. It’s fun to speculate about what else chokecherry could have been used for in this category of “other uses.”

The practical can be poetic in its own right: Ripe berries were a sign of approaching salmon spawning for the Okanagan tribe. A green dye was made from the leaves and a purple dye from the berries. There were bows made from the branches, and arrows made from the trunks. Arrowheads were fastened to shafts using the sap, and cuts were treated with a poultice made from the leaves. Tipi stakes and digging implements were made from branches. Pictographs were painted using a mixture of the berries and bear fat.

He was once told that his letters to his godmother were more important than gold by his godmother. So if I hand over letters, do you promise to return the favor with gold? “Why?” the 6-year-old asked.

There is no price you can put on them, “said she, “Honey.”

Those jars of thick, magenta oceans of chokecherry jelly in my cupboard make me feel exactly the same way.