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Broadleaved Trees of Yosemite National Park (1947) by C. Frank Brockman


WESTERN CHOKECHERRY

Prunus virginiana var. demissa (Nutt.) Torr. — Rose Family (Rosaceae)

Although this species, which is found up to 5,500 feet, is not of great importance in the forests of Yosemite National Park; its dense, elongated clusters of white flowers, or its fruit, often attracts the attention of Park visitors. In rich soil of protected locations it occurs singly or in small

Foliage and flowers of chokecherry (Inch squares on background)
[click to enlarge]
Photo by Brockman

Foliage and flowers of chokecherry (Inch squares on background)
groups as a slender, crooked-stemmed tree from twenty to twenty-five feet tall. In drier, less desirable situations it sometimes forms shrubby thickets four to ten feet tall.

Although new twigs are green,the color of older bark is a light reddish-brown to gray, smooth, except on older and larger trunks, in which case it is rough and irregularly seamed with reddish-brown scales. The leaves which are one to three and one-half inches long at maturity a-e thick, somewhat leathery, and a deep green, being shiny on the upper side and paler beneath. The edges of the leaves are characterized by numerous short teeth.

The attractive white flowers, each about one-half inch in diameter, are borne in compact, cylindrical clusters from two to four inches in length. Each cluster contains from 20 to 50 blossoms and on the Valley floor they are generally evident in June. By late summer the fruit ripens. However, this is eagerly sought after by birds and so it is generally devoured before it is fully ripe. When mature the fruit is characterized by a dark purple color.

Bruised twigs, leaves, and the bark of young twigs possesses a strong characteristic odor. The name chokecherry is derived from the fact that the fruit has an astringent after taste.



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