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Trees & Shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States

Red Chokeberry flower

Common Name
Red Chokeberry (Soft Agrimony, Downy Agrimony)


Scientific Name
Aronia arbutifolia (L.) Pers.


Plant Family
Rose (Rosaceae)

Garden Location
Historical - not extant


Prime Season
May flowering - late summer fruit.



Red Chokeberry is a deciduous shrub growing from 3 to 12 feet high. See bottom of the page for range. Native U.S. plants are not hardy beyond USDA Zone 5.

Leaves are alternate, ovate-lanceolate shape with a short stalk, fine toothed edge, dense with fine hair on the underside, medium dull green color which turns a dark glossy green in the Autumn before finally turning red. Leaves are slightly larger than the Black Chokeberry.

The inflorescence is a terminal panicle on the tips of short stub twigs rising from buds of the prior seasons growth. Flower clusters will be 2 to 2-1/2 inches wide. Flower stalks and buds are woolly.

The flowers are 5-parted with white to pinkish petals, about 20 stamens with pink anthers and with a 5-parted style, all rising from a yellow-green central receptacle. The petals that are clawed (narrowed at the base where they attach). The hypanthium is light green in color, cup shaped with 5 sepal lobes that are triangular in shape. Flower buds appear with the new leaves.

Fruit: Fruit matures in the autumn to a juicy red berry, (a pome) about 1/4 to 1/3 inch diameter. Each pome contains 1 to 5 seeds. Humans can use the fruit for canning and jelly making. When cooked, Red Chokeberries make a heavy, sweet solid jelly, sweeter than that from Black Chokeberry. They have an abundance of pectin and should self-set. Raw Red Chokeberry, unlike the Black, is palatable to most people. The antioxidant qualities of Chokeberry make them very beneficial for the human diet.


Habitat: Red Chokeberry grows best in full sun on moist well drained sites. It is tolerant of some shade. Several cultivars are available in the nursery trade.

Names: Some references have transferred this plant into the genus Photinia with the species name pyrifolia, although many references will insist it remain in Aronia and apparently, recent molecular data would support that (##ref below). Minnesota authorities - the DNR and the U of M Herbarium are using Aronia as is the authorative Flora of North America which just published (2016) the new volume on the Rosaceae. The genus Aronia is derived from the Greek aria, which is a Greek name for a species of Sorbus whose fruits resemble Chokeberry. The species arbutifolia means 'with leaves like the arbutus', which is a genus of small trees and shrubs with edible red berries.

The author names for the plant classification are twofold - first to publish was '(L.)' refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy. His work was amended by ‘Pers.’ which is for Christiaan Hendrik Persoon (1761-1836), South African born botanist, educated in Europe, maintained a large herbarium, published Synopsis Plantarum, describing 20,000 species, but best known for his work in the fungi. The alternate genus Photinia, is from the Greek 'photeinos' meaning 'luminous' and is used here with plants with glossy leaves. The alternate species pyrifolia means 'pear shaped' referring the leaf shape

Comparisons: Red Chokeberry is similar to the Black Chokeberry that is native to Minnesota.

See bottom of page for notes on the Garden's planting history, distribution in Minnesota and North America, lore and other references.

Red Chokeberry Red Chokeberry Red Chokeberry

Above: 1st photo - The white showy flowers of May. 2nd photo - maturing Autumn Fruit. 3rd photo - Leaf structure - beginning to turn to the deep red fall color.

Below: The flower buds emerge with the new leaves. In the spring the underside of the leaves are covered with dense hair as are the flower buds and their stalks. 3rd photo - The five-parted white flowers have clawed petals, up to 20 stamens with pink anthers.

Red Chokeberry twig Red Chokeberry buds Red Chokeberry flowers

Below: Note how the berries begin to shrivel upon reaching full ripeness.

Red Chokeberry


Notes: Red Chokeberry is not native to Minnesota. It was present in the Garden in the early years. Eloise Butler planted it in 1912 - plants obtained from Kelsey's Nursery in North Carolina and in 1917 from Kelsey's in Boxford Mass. By the time of Martha Crone's 1951 Garden census, it was no longer extant, and probably died quite early due to a lack of hardiness in a very severe Minnesota winter. It is native to the south and east coast and the eastern provinces of Canada. There are now cultivars available that are winter hardy in Minnesota; one such variety is 'Brilliant'.

The only species of Aronia native to the state is Aronia melanocarpa Michx., the Black Chokeberry.

## Ref. Campbell, C.S.; Evans, R.C.; Morgan, D.R.; Dickinson, T.A.; Arsenault, M.P. (2007). Phylogeny of subtribe Pyrinae (formerly the Maloideae, Rosaceae): Limited resolution of a complex evolutionary history. Plant Systematics and Evolution. 266(1–2): 119–145

References and site links

References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.