Red Chokeberry flower
Historical Plants of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden
The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States

Common
Name

Scientific
Name

Plant
Family

Garden
Location

Prime
Season

Red Chokeberry

Photinia pyrifolia Lam. alternatively - Aronia arbutifolia (L.) Pers.

Rose (Rosaceae)
Historical - not extant
May flowering - late summer fruit.
Other names and notes

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 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 new seasons growth. Flower clusters will be 2 to 2-1/2" wide. Flower stalks and buds are woolly. The flowers are 5-parted with white to pinkish petals, about 20 stamens with pink anthers and petals that are clawed (narrowed at the base where they attach). Fruit: Fruit matures in the autumn to a juicy red berry, (a pome) about 1/4 to 1/3" 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: Current USDA listings put this plant in the genus Photinia although many references will insist it be in Aronia. The genus Aronia is derived from the Greek aria, which is a Greek name for a species of Sorbus whose fruits resemble Chokeberry. The genus Photinia, is from the Greek 'photeinos' meaning 'luminous' and is used here with plants with glossy leaves. The species pyrifolia means 'pear shaped' referring the leaf shape. The author name ‘Lam.’ is for Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) French naturalists who published on botany and zoology and is known for his theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Comparisons: Red Chokeberry is similar to the Black Chokeberry that is native to Minnesota.

Red Chokeberry
Red Chokeberry
Red Chokeberry
Above: Left: The white showy flowers of May. Center: maturing Autumn Fruit. Right: 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. Below: 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. 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 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 Photinia native to the state is Photinia melanocarpa Michx., the Black Chokeberry.

 
 

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