Common Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)
Common chokecherry can provide the survivor with a food source through its fruit. The small berries are bitter but edible. They can be dried and stored for later use, or eaten raw. If the survivor has an established base of operations with no fear of invading zombies, he or she could even attempt to ferment the cherries into chokecherry wine. The pits of the cherries are poisonous, however, and should be avoided.
The bark and leaves of chokecherries have been used medicinally as well, and a tincture of chokecherry could help alleviate suffering from fever, pneumonia, sore throat or gastrointestinal problems. It can also be used as a rinse on burns and open sores. If using as a salve, the plant should not be boiled–the medicinal properties can be boiled away.
Of Note to Pre-Apocalyptic Landscape Architects:
Tree or shrub, less than 30 feet tall. Leaves are alternate, serrated, oval in shape, and glabrous, growing 1 to 4 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. There are two small glands on the petiole at the base of the leaf. Young trees are marked by horizontal lenticels on their bark, which grow into grooves in maturity. The fruit are small, dark red cherries. Also grows cylindrical clusters of white flowers in spring.
Grows abundantly in many habitats and communities. Grows in USDA hardiness zones 2 through 7. Prefers full sun–not an understory shrub. Occurs in wide range of soil types including both silt and sandy loam, a range of acidity/alkalinity, and depth. Does not do well in poorly drained or clay soils. Can withstand dry and moist soils but cannot withstand frequent flooding or poorly drained soil. Well adapted to fire disturbance–can spread from rhizomes, and seeds germinate better when heated. Grows quickly to mature size and has white flowers in the spring. Attracts birds and can produce a fragrance like almonds. Can be used as noise barrier and does well in urban areas. Seeds can be placed ½ inch deep, but should be pre-chilled for 3 months prior. Saplings are intolerant of weed competition.