Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Plant Profile: Serviceberry

Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) is a small, native tree, which grows wild from Maine to the Carolinas. It is also called Saskatoonberry, Juneberry, Shadberry, Shadbush, and many other names. Serviceberry is being used extensively now in native landscaping, so you can find small groves of it in many public areas.

It can be grown as a small tree or large shrub - reaching less than 25 feet tall. It is not picky about soil type and does well in sun to part-shade conditions.  The trees bloom in early spring with tiny white to light-pink flowers.

Serviceberry also has a lovely fall color. One of the most popular varieties is ‘Autumn Brilliance’ - which has blazing foliage in brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows.

The berry is similar to a blueberry in size and flavor, but is much sweeter and has a small, edible seed inside each berry. The seed is reminiscent of an almond in flavor.

The season to pick the berries is late May to mid- June. They do not have to be fully blue to be ripe, so pick them when they are any shade from burgundy to purple. Do so quickly before the birds get them and before any signs of rust appear on the fruit, which happens commonly in our area. 

The rust appears as a hard green spot on the fruit which erupts into a coating of orange powdery spores. It is unsightly and it will ruin any of the berries that it infects, but it will not hurt or kill the tree itself.

You can adapt most any blueberry recipe and substitute in serviceberry -- just drastically drop the amount of sugar or leave it out entirely as this berry is much sweeter than a typical blueberry.*

Serviceberry - You Can Grow That!

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  1. Hi, thanks for this. We have several eastern red cedars in the yard and it is my understanding that they and serviceberries do not mix well?

    1. Correct, the cedars are the cause of the rust issues on serviceberries, but cedars are planted everywhere in our communities, so it is pretty much unavoidable.

    2. Most timely! A damaged serviceberry is available to me, and loving to rescue plants I am still thinking about it. My optimum spot is very close to my cedar tree, so it is most helpful that that is not a preferable place!

    3. Yes, as far away from that Cedar as you can get!


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