Thursday, March 17, 2011

Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp)

The serviceberry trees in our woods are starting to bloom. This is probably a Common or Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), but there are several different species of serviceberry and they hybridize easily, so I'm not certain.

General characteristics:  "Downy serviceberry is a deciduous, early-flowering, large shrub or small tree which typically grows 15-25' tall in cultivation but can reach 40' in the wild. A Missouri native plant [and native to most of eastern and central North America (range map)] that occurs most often in open rocky woods, wooded slopes, and bluffs. Features 5-petaled, showy, slightly fragrant, white flowers in drooping clusters which appear before the leaves emerge in early spring. The finely-toothed, obovate leaves exhibit good fall color. Flowers give way to small, round green berries which turn red and finally mature to a dark purplish-black in early summer. Edible berries resemble blueberries in size and color and are often used in jams, jellies and pies.  (Source:  Kemper Center for Home Garden of the Missouri Botanical Garden)

Other common names include:  Shadblow, Juneberry, Shadbush, Sarvis-tree.

The berry of a serviceberry looks much likes a rose hip, which makes sense since it a member of family Rosaceae.  The berry is edible, but there is debate about its quality.  Some sources say it just barely palatable and is best left for the birds.  Other sources claim a serviceberry fruit has a delicious, blueberry-like taste.  I've never sampled one because the birds usually beat me too them, and when they're not covered with beautiful white flowers, the small serviceberry trees are difficult to re-locate in the woods. 

Sources and additional links:
Vanderbilt (photos only)
Trees of Wisconsin
Missouri Plants
Oklahoma Extension Service 
Dave's Garden

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TexWisGirl said...

The flowers are really beautiful. Chuckled that the birds beat you to the berries... :)

Pat - Arkansas said...

Very pretty blossoms! Can't recall that I've ever before seen serviceberry.

Rebecca Clayton said...

Those are beautiful! I don't ever try to go beyond "Amelanchier sp." but your sarvis is clearly different from our sarvis.

(Sarvisberry is the Appalachian version of serviceberry.) My husband says it's "service" as in "funeral service," because when the ground was thawed enough to dig graves for the people who'd died over the winter, these were the flowers available for the funerals.

I call it "Amelanchier" because I first learned of the plant from my Dutch ecology professor. It was easier to use Latin than to try and find mutually intelligible common names. I'm pretty sure I pronounce "Amelanchier" with a Dutch accent.

MyMaracas said...

I don't think I've ever seen these, but I'll keep an eye out. Lovely flowers, and an informative post!

Crafty Green Poet said...

what lovely flowers!

Rambling Woods said...

I don't think I have seen this either, but I don't think I have the right area for it.. Beautiful photos. Thank you Jo and Marvin.. Michelle