Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wetland Plant of the Week #35

Aronia arbutifolia

Red Chokeberry

The red chokeberry is a medium sized shrub displaying minimal branching, gray bark and alternately arranged leaves. It’s one of two species of Aronia found in the eastern United States; the other species being the black chokeberry (A. melanocarpa). Aronia arbutifolia is common to stream banks, seepage slopes and hydric flatwoods that possess sufficient water to satisfy the plant’s Facultative Wet habitat preference. The leaves of the plant have a visible gland at the tip, a toothed margin and small red or purple spots along the midrib. The white-to-pink flowers emerge in spring and exhibit five petals. In addition to the attractive flowers, the aesthetically pleasing bright red berry-like fruits of Aronia arbutifolia have made it popular with horticulturalists as an ornamental.

Aronia arbutifolia is one of about 3000 species included in the Rosaceae Family. Despite the rose family’s general familiarity with both botanist and non-botanist alike, the group’s phylogeny is not understood all that well. Our current understanding of the Aronia Genus is in large part derived from the sequencing of several nuclear and chloroplast loci back in 2007. That study placed the chokeberries in the Maloideae subfamily. This Maloideae subfamily also contains the genus Malus (crab apples) and for that reason is sometimes referred to as the “apple group.” Although resolution of the group’s phylogeny has somewhat improved since then there is still plenty of work to do in understanding their evolutionary past.

The plant photo was taken two weeks ago near Panama City, Florida.

Potter, D., Eriksson, T., Evans, R., Oh, S., Smedmark, J., Morgan, D., Kerr, M., Robertson, K., Arsenault, M., Dickinson, T., & Campbell, C. (2007). Phylogeny and classification of Rosaceae Plant Systematics and Evolution, 266 (1-2), 5-43 DOI: 10.1007/s00606-007-0539-9

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