The Serviceberry Tree
Photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.
The attractive foliage and delicious berries of serviceberry are a favorite for wildlife.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora) is a top landscape choice for humans and wildlife alike. This offspring of beautiful American native species, like its relatives, provides plenty of ornamental value for manicured landscapes and is a wonderful habitat plant as well.
Serviceberry (a.k.a. Juneberry, shadbush, shadblow) is the common name given to numerous related species from all over North America and at least one from East Asia. Most commonly found for sale in the U.S. are the offspring of Amelanchier arborea crossed with A. laevis, which have been given the name Amelanchier x grandiflora, and from which come several unique landscape selections.
Broadly speaking, these landscape cultivars are large multi-stemmed shrubs achieving more than twenty feet tall and nearly as wide. They are deciduous, with medium to deep green summer leaves turning yellow, apricot or orange in fall. The spring-borne flowers tend to be a bit showier than those of the native species, usually stark white sometimes with a slight pink tinge when in bud. The fruit ripen in early summer, and are similar to blueberries in size, morphing from green to red to nearly black when fully ripe. This shrub is useful in the landscape for its spring flowers, edible fruits, fall color and attraction to birds and bees. Hardy in zones 4-9.
The parents of this commercially available serviceberry have overlapping ranges. A. arborea (downy serviceberry) hails from an area covering Maine to Iowa, and northern Florida to Louisiana. A. laevis (Allegheny serviceberry) overlaps this area significantly, but ranges a bit further north in the Midwestern region: Newfoundland to Michigan and Kansas, to Georgia and Alabama.
The name “shadbush” came from the bloom time which is nearly concurrent with the shad swimming upriver to spawn. It is a beautiful season for this plant when the flowers open on nearly bare branches, backed against only the silvery buds and bright red scales on the flower stalks. “Serviceberry” is a further corruption of the previous name “sarvissberry” which Shakespearean-era settlers gave the shrub. It seems that this New World shrub was reminiscent of the various Sorbus fruits of Europe...for good reason. Both Amelanchier and Sorbus are within the same family tree (with roses and apples too!).
Serviceberry transplants well from either container grown or balled in burlap stock. Optimum conditions include moist, well-drained, acidic soil and full to partial sunlight. Not a great tree for high-stress situations, plant it in an open landscape or at a woods’ edge for best results.
Being of the same botanical family as apples and roses, serviceberry may be considered somewhat susceptible to similar pest problems. That said, the varieties on the market tend to have a fairly high degree of tolerance, and these stressors are normally mitigated by planting properly in a good location. No preventative applications are needed, but watch for signs of rust, leaf blight, fire blight, powdery mildew and various insect pests. Little, if any, pruning is required.
A Few Landscape Cultivars
Try the cultivars ‘Autumn Brilliance’, ‘Rubescens’ or ‘Strata’ to add serviceberry beauty to your yard.