MY SPRING MEASURING STICK IS TOTALLY BARE AS OF TODAY

March 29, 2017 9:10 am Published by Leave your thoughts

 

What the heck am I talking about.   It was nearly 10 years ago I planted a native plant, Aronia, that grows on Presque Isle in my new side yard.  Since then, it has become the cornerstone showpiece planting of my yard.  It was planted on my then new side yard just as you enter my driveway. Everyone gets to look at it.  I have had people pull into my drive and asked me what kind of bush that is.

My Chokeberry Bush 2014

The Aronia species has enormous potential for use as native ornamental landscape plant and edible fruit crop.  The common name of the bush is RED CHOKEBERRY.  OMG – – isn’t that an awful common name for such a wonderful bush?  

            I think that the common name may be a problem because most people immediately have a bad feeling about the bush. This name most likely was given to the bush because they noticed that the birds overlooked the bright red berries nearly all winter. One factor I love about the bush it takes only minutes a year worth of work to keep it looking great.

But I want to tell you, that bush is how I know spring has finally arrived. Three weeks ago, my large Red Chokeberry bush had thousands of bright red berries.  I looked out yesterday morning and at least 10 birds were busy cleaning it bare.  Today, it looks like the rest of my bushes.  It has been picked totally clean.  When this happens each year, I know spring is just around the corner.

Blossom on Chokeberry

In the eastern United States, this plant helps beautify the woodlands during all seasons of the year.  It does this for several reasons. The first it has an upright growth habit.  It looks like an inverted V.   It can grow 6 to 10 feet tall and measure 3 to 5 feet wide. It is a multi-stemmed shrub which can be easily trimmed in a garden setting.  Most of the foliage of the Chokeberry bush will be found in the upper half of the bush.  New growth on the stems is quite slow to mature.

In the spring, usually in May, it is covered by small white flowers that are produced in clusters about 1.5 inches wide. In the total wild on Presque Isle and other woodland areas, these bushes have white spring blooms that can be so numerous that they cover the whole canopy’s surface.

If you walk on the trails of Presque Isle start looking for the Red Chokeberry bushes on the park to bloom in the first and second week of May.  The blooms only last three or four days.

The Red Chokeberry bushes usually form rhizomes and will eventually pushup small new bushes.  The will eventually form small colonies in a non-aggressive manner.  The largest colony I have ever seen is only fifteen feet or so across with about 10 midsized bushes. In my yard, I just pull up the rhizomes and give them away to people who have asked for their yard. I want just the one bush in the side yard.

Summer foliage of the Red Chokeberry bush is shiny or flat green above and grayish on the underside.  Fall is when the whole bush stands out in the woodlands of eastern United Sates and on Presque Isle.  The Red Chokeberry bush’s fall foliage turns a vibrant red crimson or purple red, and if in a sunny location can be truly spectacular.  Slowly over 2 or 3 weeks these red leaves turn into a muted shade of orange and light red.

As fall approaches in late September and early October, many clusters of small vivid red fruit begin to show on the bushes. They will remain quite showy nearly all through our winter season.  I have noticed that they seem to remain firm, glossy and attractive all winter long.

I have had people tell me they know all about Red Chokeberry bushes only to find that they really meant Chokecherry, a quite different plant.   Aronia (Red Chokeberry) is one of the best kept secrets around the plant world.  Recently I saw a juice in Trader Joe’s that was a blend of Aronia and Acai juices.  It is supposed to be a bit like cranberry cocktail.

Red and Black Chokeberry

There is also a Black Chokeberry, however it does not seem to do well in the northeastern United States.  I believe that there are a few of these bushes on Presque Isle.  Where it grows, the fruit ripens in July and most shrivel and drop to the ground in just a day or two.

Why don’t the birds eat the berries in the dead of winter?   It might be the strong tannin (astringent like) flavor.  However, some bird experts feel that the birds know that the berries have a low protein content than may other fruits that in the dead of winter are more readily found and eaten by the birds.

So, as spring finally arrives and you are on the park, keep a sharp eye out for my showpiece bush “The Red Chokeberry.”

 

See you on the Park.

 

 


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