Chokecherry Tree

Originally introduced in Alaska as attractive, ornamental trees, Prunus padus (AKA European bird cherry, chokecherry, or mayday trees), and Prunus virginiana (AKA Canadian red, or chokecherry), are now deemed invasive species with the potential to significantly affect native ecosystems in Alaska.

The USDA Forest Service and the Alaska Division of Forestry are offering grants up to $25,000 to local governments and nonprofit organizations to remove two types of invasive chokecherry trees from Alaska.

Both Prunus padus, commonly known as European bird cherry (EBC), chokecherry, or mayday trees, and Prunus virginiana, commonly known as Canadian red, or chokecherry, were originally introduced in Alaska as attractive, ornamental trees. However, chokecherries proved to be invasive and have been found to pose a threat to moose, salmon and native plants. 

 “While chokecherry trees are a springtime favorite of many Alaskans for their beautiful and aromatic blossoms, they are becoming what some ecologists call ‘rogue ornamentals,’” said Jim Renkert, manager of the Division’s Community Forestry Program. “The pretty tree in our yards has gone feral in Alaska greenbelts and parks. In many areas it is aggressively outcompeting our native species and changing the habitat.”

Now rapidly invading riparian and natural forest areas in Fairbanks, the Matanuska- Susitna Borough, the Municipality of Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and Juneau, Prunus padus is especially aggressive and poses several different hazards:

•  Prunus padus can take over the understory of forests, and form thickets where native plants once grew.

• There are documented cases of moose dying of cyanide poisoning from eating Prunus padus.

•  Future salmon populations may be smaller due because Prunus padus growing near the water, don’t attract as many insects that fall into the water to provide food for juvenile salmon.

The grants are offered to help recipients identify and remove prominent stands of these two Prunus species from Alaska, and to train additional certified pesticide management consultants and applicators.

Approximately $200,000 is available in grants of up to $25,000 each. Grants will be awarded to applicants with knowledge and commitment to removing Prunus species from their communities. The application deadline is April 9, 2021.

Additional information is available in the request for proposals and grant application form at http://forestry.alaska.gov/community/grants