Serviceberry Surprise

Coppertop’s previous owners left me a list of some of the trees they had planted in the gardens during the 12 years they lived here. I’ve located most throughout the acres, but can’t find a few. One that eluded me is the Serviceberry tree. Until now.

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This native blooming specimen grows near the bottom of these gardens, past the dahlia beds. It is surrounded by vine maples and bigleaf maples. Serviceberry trees have a small growth habit, rarely reaching 30 feet in height. The five-petaled white flowers, oval leaves, and gray bark are its distinguishing features.

Serviceberries produce a dark reddish purple fruit that is favored by birds, so perhaps I hadn’t noticed them because birds ate them early on, or perhaps the tree has been too young to bear. The berries should appear in June, hence another name for the tree: Juneberry. Yet more names include shadblow, shadbush, and shadwood. Shad refers to fish which traditionally run in early spring at the same time the tree blooms. As members of the rose family they are related to hawthorns, crabapples, cherries, plums, and peaches.

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Walking through the gardens this morning in the fog, I noticed another cloud of white in my periphery and was surprised to find a second serviceberry tree!

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This one is hidden in a section of the fenced land we aptly call “the wild area.” Carefully avoiding thorny brambles and nettles, I took one photo. It may be time to clear around the tree a bit more to enjoy it better, but up until now, it’s been a wildlife mecca I’m sure.

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The many types of Serviceberry trees make up the genus Amelanchier. I would imagine ours are Western or Pacific serviceberries, Amelanchier alnifolia. Sometimes these are called Saskatoon serviceberries. An online  plant fact sheet from the USDA reads:

Saskatoon serviceberry was used by native populations and early settlers of the Pacific Northwest. The berries were eaten raw or were cooked or dried for storage. Cakes of dried berries were a common trading item. The wood is hard and was used for combs, digging sticks, arrows, tool handles, hoops, and spreaders. Decoctions of twigs (bark) were used as medicine.

As if the lovely blooms and berries aren’t enough, in autumn the oval leaves of serviceberries turn vibrant shades of yellow-orange to reddish purple, as seen in this photo from homegardengreen.com:

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3 thoughts on “Serviceberry Surprise

  1. March, what a lucky find. The fruit the tree bears is also known as Saskatoon berries, and it makes the most delicious jam. Your trees may not yet be old enough to furnish your pantry, but when they are, give the jam a try. The berries look similar to blueberries.

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    • I will definitely watch for the berries this summer since the trees should be a decade old by now and able to bear. Good to hear from you, Sabine, and I hope you’ve had some good time in the soil recently.

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