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Plants from the Ground Up

Aronia – The Chokeberry

Aronia or Chokeberry is a superb shrub for both its usefulness and beauty. I would love to see this wonderful native plant used in more gardens across the country! Chokeberries, so named for the bitter taste of the fresh fruit, are easy-care low maintenance plants with loads of interest. Spring finds them covered with showy clusters of small five-petaled white flowers. The flowers are bi-sexual, therefore these shrubs are self-fruitful. The leaves of Aronia are a very glossy deep-green with a finely-toothed edge and raised glands on the mid-rib. In summer the flowers become heavy groups of juicy ‘pome’ fruits colored deep-purple or brilliant red depending on the species. Autumn may be the finest season for Aronia when these shrubs ignite into their fiery red fall color.

Aronia melanocarpa Mound - Dwarf Black Chokeberry Low Scape™

Aronia melanocarpa Mound – Dwarf Black Chokeberry Low Scape™

Aronia melanocarpa

Aronia from the Greek ‘aria’ meaning Sorbus due to the similarity in the look of the fruit and melanocarpa meaning black (melano) and fruit (carpa). These 4-6′ shrubs are native to the US and are found growing in woodlands and swamps in the Great Lakes and other areas of the NE United States. Though under-appreciated by most folks there at home, these shrubs have been grown commercially in Russia and Eastern Europe since the 1940’s. They are commonly used for juice and make a wonderful jelly. Aronia are becoming more well known for their health benefits as they contain very high levels of beneficial antioxidants. The rich purple fruits of this species have incredibly high levels of  ‘anthocyans’ an antioxidant found in all purple fruits. Aronia melanocarpa is also showing promise to be useful in fighting cancer, liver disease and diabetes.

Aronia melanocarpa Nero - Select Black Chokeberry

Aronia melanocarpa Nero – Select Black Chokeberry

Aronia arbutifolia

The word arbutifolia comes from Arbutus, a nod to the Madrone family since both plants feature fine red fruits. These red Chokeberries create larger 6-8′ vase-shaped shrubs which sucker and can create colonies. They are extremely showy in fall with the bright red berries and “stop you in your tracks” red fall color. Unlike melanocarpa, these berries hold on the plant into winter and are simply gorgeous when covered in frost or snow. The red fruits are also edible and are used for jellies.

Aronia arbutifolia Brilliantissima

Aronia arbutifolia Brilliantissima

 

Aronia plants thrive in full sun but can take some shade and although native to swampy areas they tolerate normal garden soils and watering. These Rose family shrubs sucker and are perfect for rain gardens, creating hedges or making up part of a hedgerow. Aronia have no serious pest or disease issues.  In the Eastern US where ‘Burning Bush’ (Euonymus) are invasive, these are a perfect replacement for those looking for flaming fall color. Aronia are propagated by seed, cuttings or layering and are hardy to USDA winter hardiness zones 3 and 4.

For more photos and information, see Aronia at the Forestfarm Store.

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