Thursday, June 5, 2008

Serviceberries

Well, as you can see from this shot, the fruit on Amelanchier canadensis have developed and are only weeks away from becoming ripe.


I suspected this was Amelanchier canadensis and not A. arborea, since generally, A. arborea will be a treeform and A. canadensis will be a large shrub. Dirr prefers the latter for its spectacular fall color and personally I think this plant is best used as a small multistemmed tree/shrub (above) as opposed to a single stem 'lollipop tree.'

How fortunate for me that even in the middle of Soho (on Crosby Street between Spring & Prince), I can find A. canadensis and, a few feet further north, stumble on A. arborea:


These photos demonstrate the differences in habit, but what best indicates that they are in fact two completely different species are the fruits. A. canadensis blooms one week after A. arborea. Compare the different states of the fruits:

A. canadensis


A. arborea


You can see that A. arborea is much more ripe, proving they are two different species.

At first glance, to me, the fruit resembles a blueberry and for some time I incorrectly assumed it was an Ericaceous plant. However,
if you look closer, they clearly resemble a rosehip and are Rosaceous. The fruits are flavorful -- they taste like tart blueberries, though they do have small pits or seeds in them.

The name Serviceberry has a New England root. Up north, the fruit would ripen around the same time the ground would thaw. Once the ground thawed, burial services could be held for those who had died the previous winter. Thus, Serviceberry.

Another common name for this plant is Shadblow or Shadbush. Its origin refers to the fact that the plant is in bloom when the Shad begins its annual sojourn upstream to mate.

I think I've written enough about this plant for one blog post, but I have to add a brief editorial. I think this is a spectacular tree, particularly when in a multistemmed form. It has a fine, elegant habit and its rose-tinted, striped bark looks beautiful in the winter. The lovely flowers arrive in mid-spring and the fruit adds a late-spring/early summer interest. Finally, the fall color is yellow-gold and sometimes, if you're lucky, it is an orange so bright you feel like the plant must be on fire or is at least plugged into some electrical outlet. It's a wonderful tree.


1 comment:

Naomi Sachs, ASLA said...

Great post! The serviceberry is one of my all-time favorite trees. Beautiful in all seasons, native, great for wildlife habitat, adaptable to soil, moisture, and light conditions, and edible fruit (if the birds don't beat you to it!). Also called Juneberry, because the berries (which somebody told me were actually preferred over blueberries by Native Americans) ripen in June. As for i.d., I've also read (in Dirr) and been told that the difference between the various species is difficult to judge - so much so that nurseries often mislabel! And to throw into the mix, there's Amelanchier x, as in Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance.' I think this is what I have in my garden, and I've blogged about them several times. See http://tldb.blogspot.com/2008/11/my-serviceberries-make-me-happy.html.