Chokecherry is a suckering shrub or small tree growing to 1–6 m (3 ft 3 in–19 ft 8 in) tall, rarely to 10 m (32 ft 10 in). The leaves are oval, 2.5–10 cm (1–4 in) long and 1.2–5 cm (1⁄2–2 in) wide, with a serrated margin. The stems rarely exceed 2 cm (3⁄4 in) in length.
The flowers are produced in racemes 4–11 cm (1+1⁄2–4+1⁄4 in) long in late spring (well after leaf emergence). They are 8–13 mm (1⁄4–1⁄2 in) across.
The fruits (drupes) are about 6–14 mm (1⁄4–1⁄2 in) in diameter, range in color from bright red to black, and possess a very astringent taste, being both somewhat sour and somewhat bitter. They get darker and marginally sweeter as they ripen. They each contain a large stone.