The Aronia Family: Chokeberries
The Aronia family is a small family of three attractive shrubs known under the common name of chokeberry. Chokeberries are native to the Eastern United States but have been growing in popularity as a landscape plant around the world due to their hardiness, beauty, and nutritious fruit.
The two more common chokeberry species are the Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa, sometimes called Photinia melanocarpa) and the Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia, sometimes called Photinia pyrifolia). The third species, Purple Chokeberry (Aronia prunifolia, or Photinia floribunda), may be a hybrid of the other two rather than a separate species of its own. The chokeberry should not be confused with the Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), an unrelated member of the Prunus family, though the two plants are similar in habits and appearance.
Aronia tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions and light levels, though they tend to grow leggy and become prone to mildew in deep shade. Black chokeberries grow about 3-6 feet tall, red chokeberries are taller. Both produce attractive clusters of small white flowers in spring, and deep red or black berries in fall. The berries have attracted a lot of attention in recent years due to their extremely levels of vitamin C and antioxidants. Aronia juice is now commonly found in health food stores, either plain or mixed with sweeter juices to relieve the astringency that gave the berry its name. The berries can also be used to make jam, jelly, wine, syrup, and many other foods. Aronia berries are used by birds and other wildlife as a winter food source.