University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
know the serviceberry (Amelanchier)
as Saskatoon, Shad, Shadblow, Shadbush, Juneberry, Sarvis tree, or
Servicetree. You may recognize it as
that large shrub or small tree blooming in natural areas, with white
early to mid spring. In addition to its
attractive spring flowers, this hardy and native plant has
interest both to wildlife and humans.
fruits of serviceberry ripen in midsummer, turning initially from
red to a
bluish-black. Like blueberries, they’re tasty
fresh as well as in pies or jellies, if you can beat the birds to
them. Native Americans dried the berries, mixing
them with dried meat and melted fat to form cakes called “pemmican”.
In fall, the leaves turn attractive shades of
orange to dark red.
Serviceberries are native to moist woodlands
of northern, temperate climates such as North America. They can
reach 10 to 25 feet high, and 6 to
20 feet wide with a moderate growth rate.
Light requirements vary with type of serviceberry. They’re quite
hardy, at least to USDA zone 4
(-20 to -30 degrees F), and possibly colder depending on species.
this plant often goes by several names, these actually refer to
species. The Saskatoon berry (A. alnifolia) is the lowest,
reaching 5 to 8 feet high and is a main fruit
crop in prairie provinces of Canada. It will withstand alkaline
soils. ‘Regent’ and ‘Smoky’ are two cultivars (cultivated
varieties) grown for their fruit, not ornamental qualities, and they
spread. ‘Obelisk’ is good for fruit, and
being upright is used in hedges too.
‘Northline’ and ‘Thiessen’ have large fruits, and are very hardy
Downy serviceberry (A. arborea) is
one of the tallest, growing to 30 feet in many areas, has
multi-stems, and is
often confused with the Juneberry. Very
similar is the Juneberry or Serviceberry (A.
canadensis), whose fruits are quite attractive to birds. Its
silvery gray bark and nice branching are
attractive in landscapes. Two cultivars
you may find of this are ‘Prince William’ and Rainbow Pillar (more
upright). Similar is the Lamarck serviceberry (A. x lamarckii)
only with larger purple
fruits, more vigor, and more tolerant of part shade.
Apple serviceberry (A. x grandiflora)
can be grown with one or multiple trunks.
They produce larger fruits than many other of their relatives, also
nice branching and silvery-gray bark.
Unlike others, these prefer part shade (2 to 6 hours a day of direct
sun) but will tolerate full sun (6 hours or more a day). For this
species, look for Autumn Brilliance
(with great orange-red fall leaves, and resistant to leaf spots and
fireblight), ‘Forest Prince’ (disease resistant leaves and flowers
branches), or ‘Princess Diana’ (bright red fall leaves).
Allegheny serviceberry (A. laevis) is also known as the
tree. Its fruit are similar to the
Juneberry, only juicier and sweeter.
They can be grown with single or multiple trunks. A unique feature
is their emerging leaves
which are reddish, contrasting nicely with the white flowers. They
prefer part shade, but will tolerate
full sun. There are a few cultivars of
this species including ‘Cumulus’ (good
fall color and more upright habit).
are easy to grow. They’ll tolerate many
soils, as long as well-drained. Best are
soils that are slightly acidic with lots of organic matter. Keep
well-watered during their first two
years in the ground. Organic mulches help
preserve soil moisture in addition to improving soils as they break
down. Fertilizing is often not needed in good
soils, especially if compost is added yearly.
Otherwise, you might lightly sprinkle a low-analysis fertilizer in
spring (such as 5-3-4), or such as alfalfa meal, blood meal, or fish
planting beneath them (vines that ramble on the ground are good) as
many have shallow surface roots.
You can prune out a few branches if needed in late winter (before
begin to swell) to allow more light, and to enhance the branch
prevent crossing branches). Don’t prune
out too much young growth, as plants fruit on wood from the previous
pests, they may get Japanese beetles or lace bugs, although these
usually are not
serious. For diseases, they may get powdery
mildew in wet years and sites, fireblight, and rust. Fireblight
looks like the tips of branches
were burned by fire, but is caused by a bacterial disease that gets
members of the rose family too, such as apples.
Prune these off when seen, and dip pruners in a diluted bleach
afterwards to disinfect them.
rust disease looks like its name—rusty colored spots on leaves that
yellow spots on new leaves. Since this
disease needs cedars or junipers as an alternate host, keeping these
at least a
few hundred feet (best is at least a mile) away will prevent this
disease. Since this often is not practical or possible,
you can apply sprays labeled for this rust disease (according to
directions), as leaves emerge but not during bloom times. Spraying
once symptoms appear is too late. Depending on the weather it may
be worse some
years and not show up in others. Plants
tolerate this disease as well as mildew, so sprays are seldom
can be cropped for fruit, or grown in landscapes either in masses or
specimen plants. They make nice corner
plants to buildings or adjacent to patios and walks. Keep in mind
that they’re only partly
self-fertile, meaning that to ensure fruiting you’ll need at least
for cross pollination within about 50 to 75 feet.