Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa

Chokecherry - Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa
Crest of Black Range, south of McKnight Mountain, NM

The Chokecherry, Prunus virginiana, is a species of southern Canada and the northern United States.  It is also found at higher elevations in the southern half of the United States.  There are three subspecies, the one found here is P. v. melanocarpa, the Black Chokecherry.  Prunus virginiana has several scientific synonyms; Cerasus virginica, Padus rubra, Padus virginiana, and Prunus serotina.

The specimen shown here was photographed at about 9,000’ at the end of May, toward the end of the road to McKnight Cabin, along the crest of the Black Range of New Mexico, USA.  The (Southwest) Black Cherry, P. serotina virens, is also found in the Black Range and is more common.

In the north, the Chokecherry was incorporated into the diet and medicine of a number of the indigenous tribes.  The population of Chokecherry in the Black Range is not only disjunct from the main population (the Black Range being a “sky island”) but relatively small.  I do not know if the local peoples used it in any significant manner.  The Apache are known to have eaten the fruit raw and farther north the Navajo used preparations from the plant for various medicinal purposes.  “New growth, wilted leaves, or plant parts that are injured by frost or drought are poisonous to...humans.”

© Robert Barnes 2018-2023