This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flowers - White or magenta tinged, 1/2 in. across or less, in terminal, compound cymes, finally overtopped by young sterile shoots. Calyx 5-lobed, hairy; 5 concave, spreading petals; stamens numerous; 3 to 5 styles united at base; ovary woolly. Stem: Shrubby, branching, usually low, rarely 12 ft. high. Leaves: Alternate, petioled, oval to oblong, finely cut-edged, smooth above, matted with woolly hairs underneath. Fruit: Small, round or top-shaped, bright red berries.
Preferred Habitat - Swamps, low ground, wet thickets.
Flowering Season - March- - May.
Distribution - Nova Scotia to Gulf of Mexico, westward to the Mississippi.
Another common species often found in the same haunts, the Black Choke-berry (A. nigra), with similar flowers, the berries very dark purple, was formerly confounded with the red choke-berry. But because it sometimes elects to live in dry ground its leaves require no woolly mat on the underside to absorb vapors arising from wet retreats. (See Steeple-bush, p. 96.) No wonder that the insipid little berries, related to apples, pears, and other luscious fruits, should share with a cousin, the mountain ash, or rowan, the reproachful name of dogberry.