Featured Plant: Viking Black Chokeberry

By High Line Gardens | November 13, 2017

Viking black chokeberry is a deciduous shrub that provides three seasons of interest, a distinction much valued by High Line gardeners. Clusters of white flowers bloom in spring, and summer features glossy dark green leaves. Currently we are enjoying the many colors of the fall foliage, which also serves to highlight the clusters of black berries that persist into winter. It is the contrast of leaves and berries that inspired me to showcase this wonderful plant.

Aronia melanocarpa is native to the eastern half of North America, from Canada down south to Georgia, and west to Arkansas and Minnesota. In addition to its stellar year-round interest, the shrubs demonstrates great adaptability to a variety of conditions. It tolerates different soil conditions, pH levels, moisture conditions, and part shade to full sun. The shrub reaches an average height of six feet and has a pleasant rounded shape. Aronia melanocarpa is a member of the Rosaceae family, which includes other common fruiting trees such as apples, cherries, and pears.

‘Viking’ is a European cultivar bred for its heavy, flavorful fruit. In the name of research, I nibbled a single berry this season and found the fruit tasty but overshadowed by its acerbity. While I’m sure the fruit makes a fine jam, I think we’re better off leaving these berries as a design element for now, later to be consumed by birds that need an extra food source later in winter. This is a good opportunity to remind readers to abstain from foraging unless you are an expert and to leave the High Line gardens untouched for everyone to enjoy.

Viking black chokeberry is easily grown in a wide variety of conditions. It is also known for its resistance to pests and disease. I recommend it for lovers of native plants, or for home gardeners who appreciate naturalistic gardens or gardens on the wilder side. Keep in mind that the best fall color and highest yield of berries will occur if your specimen is planted in full sun.

On the High Line between 13th and 14th Streets.

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners’ current favorites with you.

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