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Four seasons of service

Edible landscape — ‘Cole’s Select’ serviceberry produces tasty fruit in June for humans and birds. © Photo Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Edible landscape — ‘Cole’s Select’ serviceberry produces tasty fruit in June for humans and birds. © Photo Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Although we call serviceberry a tree, it is actually multistemmed shrub. In nature, serviceberry is an under story tree, growing on the fringes and in shafts of light in woodlands and along streams.

It is quite adaptable, tolerating full sun to part shade and average to moist soil. Serviceberries hardy throughout the Eastern United States. Serviceberries get up to 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide at maturity. They bloom in April and May. Fruit is red to purple.

Besides Juneberry, amelanchier has many other common names:

  • Serviceberry — in northern climates, burials were postponed because of frozen ground. When this plant bloomed, it signaled thawed ground and prompted burial services.
  • Shadblow — bloom coincides with the running of shad in rivers and streams.
  • Saskatoon — comes from a Cree word for the berries, which were sold in the Canadian town of the same name. This serviceberry, (A. alnifolia), has the best fruit production.

Popular serviceberry native species include:

  • Alleghany (A. laevis) has sweet, blue-black fruit and will get 25 feet tall and up to 10 feet wide. Leaves are orange-red in fall.
  • Downy (A. arborea), also known as shadbush, grows showy up to 25 feet and has small red fruit. Leaves turn yellow-orange in fall. Has attractive contrasting stripes on bark.
  • Apple (A. x grandiflora) is a hybrid of A. laevis and A. arborea. Has the largest flowers of all serviceberries. Some cultivars have pink flowers. Will get up to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Does well in shade. Fruit is purple-black and leaves turn red in fall.
  • Shadblow (A. canadensis), is an upright, suckering plant that gets up to 20 feet tall. In nature, it grows in wet sites. The fruit is blue-black and fall foliage is gold. Showy silvery bark is striped.

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