Chokecherry Vs Buckthorn (5 Crucial Differences)

Chokecherry and Buckthorn are very similar-looking trees that sometimes even an experienced gardener can find it hard to distinguish between them at a glance.

But this is important because one of them here produces edible fruits whereas the other one is invasive and toxic.

Now, the most obvious question that comes to mind is how do we differentiate between the Buckthorns and the Chokecherries? 

Here, the good news is, no matter how similar they look, they do have some characteristics that can help you to tell them apart. In this article, we are going to discuss and compare their appearance, fruits, leaves, bark, and flowers in the most narrative manner.

so that you will have no trouble identifying the distinct variability both trees have from each other.

Before getting deep into the article let’s look at the short and precise comparison between the Buckthorn and Chokecherry –

Quick Comparison Between Chokecherry vs Buckthorn

Characters  Buckthorns Chokecherry
General Appearance  Grows up to 6 meters in height Grows up to 9 meters in height
Seeds Multiple seeds in a single fruit Only one seed in a single fruit
Fruit  Not edible and poisonous  Edible both raw and in a processed manner
Leaves Dark green leaves all year round Color changes from bright green to yellow in the fall
Flower Flowers are with four petals that appear from May to June  Flowers are with five petals that appear from April to July
Bark The bark turns brown to gray with age and has thorns Bark gets furrows with age and turns from brown to reddish-gray

Detailed Comparison Between Chokecherry vs Buckthorn

1. How They Look

Buckthorn trees are usually smaller than chokecherry trees. The buckthorn usually grows up to 6 meters. Moreover, they have a main trunk and a lot of small branches coming from it.

On the other hand, the chokecherry trees grow very large sometimes up to 9 meters tall. They have slender brownish or reddish branches and very bright green leaves.

However, their trunks are thicker and the branches are spread wider than the buckthorns.

Besides, the buckthorns are invasive in nature and create a dense bush that grows very fast around the yards and roadsides, making it very annoying.

The branches of buckthorns are grayish and their leaves are dark green in color. 

Whereas the chokecherry tree is less bushy in nature and its growth is not as fast as the buckthorns. Moreover, they have brighter green colored leaves than buckthorns.

Another distinguishing fact is while the buckthorns are mainly from European countries, the chokecherries are mostly found in northern parts of America and Canada. 

2. Fruits

One of the easiest ways to tell these two apart is by seeing their fruits. 

Now, the fruits of buckthorns are blackish and small, having a few seeds in the center of the fruit. Whereas the chokecherry fruits are much larger than the buckthorns and they are either black or red or even purple.

However, the main difference is that the chokecherries have only one seed in each of the fruits. So, if you just get to the center of the fruit you will be able to tell by seeing the number of seeds in there.

Here, the thing is no matter how alluring the buckthorn fruits look, they are not okay for human consumption. As it happens, their roots, fruits, and even the barks are toxic too. 

But the chokecherry trees produce berries that are called drupes. They can obviously be eaten and even can be used in making jams, jellies, tarts, pies, etc.

However, the chokeberry fruits should not be eaten directly because they are usually very bitter in the raw stage.

3. Leaves

We’ve already mentioned before that the Buckthorns have dark green colored leaves that are oval shaped and they usually stay green even during the fall period.

The leaves are arranged in alternate or opposite directions on the branches. 

On the other hand, chokecherry trees have bright green leaves that are more or less elliptical in shape. The upper portion of the leaf is glossy while the lower portion is dull and pale.

Here, a considerable difference is the chokeberry leaves turn yellowish to brown during the fall season. 

If you compare the leaves of these two trees, you will see the chokecherry leaves are broader in size which is about 4 inches in length and 2 inches in width.

While the buckthorn leaves are much smaller and are about 2-2 ½ inches long. 

4. Flowers

The flowers of both these trees are different. That’s why you can also easily distinguish them by looking at their flowers.

Buckthorns have greenish to yellowish flowers with four petals each giving them a square shape. The flowers are placed in clustered and opposite directions on the stem axis.

Also, the Buckthorns have small thorns at the end of each of their stems. 

On the other hand, Chokecherry flowers are white in color with an orange ring at the center having five petals each giving them a round shape. Moreover, their flowers are bright and spread a very nice scent.

If we consider the flowering time, that’s also different for both of them.

The Buckthorns produce flowers during May and June but the Chokecherry produces flowers from the month of April to July. 

Again, If you closely look at the buds then you will see, that the buckthorn buds are closely pressed to the stem while the chokecherry buds are alternately arranged and distinctly pointed out from the stems. 

5. Bark

As we’ve mentioned before, the Buckthorn’s bark is very toxic and has thorns at the end of each stem. But the Chokecherry bark is smooth and doesn’t contain any kind of thorns. 

Also, the Buckthorns have dot-like marks all over their stems. Besides, the bark turns brownish and gradually starts to peel off with age. 

Common buckthorn twigs have thorns at the tip between the terminal buds and the branches have light-color vertical dotted marks.

The Chokecherry bark has a number of varieties when it comes to color such as brownish, reddish, and even grayish too.

But when the tree starts to age the barks slowly turn black. An important feature of this tree is, that as they age the bark produces ridges with a reddish tinge parallel to the trunk.


What Happens If Someone Eats Buckthorn Berries?

The fruits of Buckthorn are poisonous but they can be sometimes mistaken for blueberries and accidentally eaten. In this case, it can cause severe cramps and diarrhea.

Aside from that, it can be very harmful to pets and wild animals because the bark and even the roots of this tree are poisonous.

What Kind of Animals Eat Buckthorn?

Buckthorn berries are not very nutritious so only a few animals rely on them as a source of their food when there is a scarcity of other nutritious food sources.

Among them, ants, mice, birds, and squirrels are the ones that eat and disperse the buckthorn seeds to other locations.

What’s the Difference Between Chokecherry and Chokeberry?

Chokeberry is a wild type of blackberry. They have a similar appearance and can be confused with chokecherry. But a very conclusive difference between them is the chokecherry fruits turn black gradually but the chokeberry fruits retain the red color as long as they are on the tree. Also, chokeberries have a stronger sour taste than chokecherries. 


If you are looking for a medium-sized shrub to beautify your landscape then you can definitely choose either Buckthorn or Chokecherry.

Because both these shrubs will embellish your yard with their beautiful flowers and fruits.

Here Buckthorn can be a good choice for a fast-growing and easy-to-maintain tree. But if you are looking for some fragrant flowers and edible fruits then Chokecherry can be the best choice for you. 

I hope this article has provided you with all the information you needed to know and hopefully it helped you to figure out which one would be the best one for you.

If you have any further queries to ask, let us know in the comment section below.

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