Amelanchier spp. - Juneberry
Amelanchier Arborea or the Downy Serviceberry is a small showy tree that produces cluster of beautiful white flowers in the spring. In the fall the Serviceberries flowers turn to a deep purple berry like fruit that hangs from its branches its smooth slate gray bark contrasts nicely with its brilliant fall color of orange and red.
Scientific Name: Amelanchier spp.
Common Name: Serviceberry, Juneberry, Shadbush
Plant Family: Rosaceae
Etymology: Amelanchier comes from the French provincial name for Amelanchier ovalis, a European plant in this genus.
The Blackfoot tribe uses serviceberry to alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and a study by Purdue university showed that Amelanchier spp. alleviated PQ-induced dopaminergic cell death a symptom of Parkinson’s Disease. Additionally, the Blackfoot use it as a dried food, in soup, and to pair with meats. The Cherokee used it for everything from food to antidiarrheal medicine. The Iroquois used the fruit as blood medicine and a gynecological aid.
Serviceberry grows in swampy lowlands, dry woods, sandy bluffs, rocky ridges, forest edges, and open woodlands and fields. It is a late successional to climax species in mixed hardwood forests of the central U.S., commonly as an understory species. In the southern Appalachians, serviceberry grows in red spruce-Fraser fir forests at elevations of 1500-2000 meters.
How to Identify
The leaves occur in a simple and alternate pattern. Oval leaves emerge with a distinctive red tinge before turning green to dark green. Young leaves are silvery green and slightly furry. Fall color varies from yellow to orange to red. The fruit is a dark purple, 3/8” berry-like fruit. The bark is smooth and slate-gray with white, longitudinal stripes.
The names “shadberry” and “shadblow” allude to the fact that the showy masses of white flowers tend to occur at the same time that shad ascend the rivers in early spring to spawn. The fruit is sometimes used in church services, thus the colloquial name of serviceberry. At least 40 bird species eat the twigs of the juneberry.
Root suckers are common, and if not removed, will result in a shrubby growth habit for the plant. Serviceberry regenerates mainly by seed but will also sprout from the roots. Seeds can be sown after 2-6 months of cold stratification, but they will not usually germinate until after the second spring. It is sometimes fed on by the gypsy moth. There are many cultivars.
- USDA Hardiness Zone: Zone 4-9
- Native Range: Midwest and northeastern United States
- Forest Garden Layer: Understory
- Permaculture functions: Food, pollinator attractor, bird habitat
- Soil moisture: Moist and well-drained Soil
- Soil texture: Acidic
- Height: 15-25’
- Spread: 4-15’ feet
- Growth rate: 13–24” annually
- Sun: Partial sun
- Bloom: March, April
- Attracts: Birds, insect pollinators, mammals
- Tolerates: Shade, poor drainage, black walnut toxicity, clay soil, pollution
- Drawbacks: Drought sensitive
- de Rus Jacquet, Aurélie, et al. “Pikuni-Blackfeet Traditional Medicine: Neuroprotective Activities of Medicinal Plants Used to Treat Parkinson’s Disease-Related Symptoms.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 206, July 2017, pp. 393–407. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.jep.2017.01.001.