Discover Nature this week as we learn about Missouri’s Black Chokeberry. Although this plant is listed as endangered in Missouri, if you go out to Holly Ridge Conservation Area in Southeast Missouri anytime from April through May you might see its clusters of showy white blooms.
It is difficult to determine why chokeberry got a reputation so bad as to account for its common name, since the fruits are not bitter, especially when compared to choke-cherry. One can easily theorize that perhaps it was once mistaken for this bitter fruit.
Few small populations of the Black chokeberry grow along seep branches at the base of Crowley’s Ridge in Southeast Missouri. Although the ridge runs from Scott County south to Stoddard County, there are only a few areas that provide natural habitat for the shrub, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Holly Ridge Conservation Area is protected, and provides habitat for black chokeberry and several other unique plants.
Black chokeberry is a small shrub that grows up to 9 feet and is often chosen as an ornamental because of its pretty white blooms and bright fall coloring. The purple to black fruit is about the size of blueberries, but they are less sweet and far chewier. Because of their high pectin content, they are good for making jellies and jams.
The Black chokeberry is a nice alternative for those who want to grow a native berry plant, but do not want the thorns that come with Missouri’s native blackberries. If you want to add Black chokeberry or other native plants to your landscaping, the George O. White State Forest Nursery offers Missouri residents a variety of seedlings for reforestation, windbreaks and erosion control, as well as wildlife food and cover. You can also go online to GrowNative.org for a list of native plant suppliers.