Native Plant Highlights
What’s in Bloom | Serviceberry

What’s in Bloom | Serviceberry

April 13, 2020

Serviceberry or Shadbush (Amelanchier canadensis) 

Serviceberry is a small tree 20 to 30 feet tall that is native to the United States from Maine to New York to Mississippi to Georgia. It is flowering now in southeastern Virginia and usually flowers before its leaves and the leaves of other trees in the forest emerge.

It got its name serviceberry because, in areas with extensive frost in the ground, it flowered at the time of year when people who had died over the winter were buried. It was also one of the few flowers in bloom in time for Easter services. It is called shadbush because it blooms at the same time as shad are swimming upstream from the ocean to their spawning grounds in fresh water.

It is adapted to moist, well-drained and droughty soil and is shade tolerant. In the wild, it is found in the understory of forests. It is widely used in landscaping in full sunlight.

Serviceberry has leaves that are oval-shaped and has fine teeth. The leaves are alternately arranged, simple, and 1 to 3 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide.

It has small white flowers that are very fragrant typical of its family, the roses. The fruit is a small berry ¼ to 1/3 inch in diameter that is readily eaten by songbirds and squirrels. The flowers are of high value to bees as pollen and nectar sources.

It is commonly available from many nurseries as bare-root seedlings. According to the Flora of Virginia, there are 7 species of Serviceberry that are considered native to Virginia:
Canadian Serviceberry, Amelanchier canadensis
Coastal Plain Serviceberry, A. obovalis
Downy Serviceberry, A. arborea
Roundleaf Serviceberry, A. sanguinea
Running Serviceberry, A. spicata
Smooth Serviceberry, A. laevis
Nantucket Shadbush, A. nantucketensis

Serviceberry content adapted from contribution of Bob Glennon, Private Lands Biologist, CMI, VT. Last 3 photos courtesy of Bob Glennon.

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