Amelanchier arborea Michx.
Downy Serviceberry, Shadblow, Juneberry, Shadbush, Sarvis-tree
15-25' high, variable spread, suckering
40+' possible, but rare
Maine . Iowa . Florida . Louisiana
Somehow, none of the common names available for
this species seem to do it justice. The pure white,
dew-laden blossoms dangling in the spring air, the
delectable fruit, much like a blueberry only sweeter,
and the brilliant crimson autumn foliage glowing
against light-gray striations on silvery bark are all
too magnificent to be described with a single name.
This probably explains the variety of monikers
available, although one would think somebody would
eventually give up in the quest for a perfect name.
They range from 'shadblow', referring to the time
when the shad run, to 'serviceberry', a meaningless
name evolved from Sarvis-tree, which in turn is a name
for A. laevis and refers to the Sorbus-like
There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the
taxonomy of amelanchiers, although Dr. Ed Hasselkus of
the University of Wisconsin has made an admirable
attempt to classify the various species with some
semblance of order. In essence, most plants offered
in the trade are not true A. arborea, but are
either a hybrid or an entirely different species.
A. arborea can be distinguished from its kinsmen
by pubescent emerging leaves, greenish-yellow buds,
and pendulous fruit.
Alternate and simple, the downy serviceberry sports
obovate to ovate 1 to 3" long leaves, often cordate
and acute or acuminate. The leaf margins are serrate,
and the entire blade is supported by a 3/8" to 1
1/2" petiole. When the young leaves are emerging,
they are often covered with a dense pubescence, but
become less so with maturity.
Pure white and borne in 2-4" long pendulous racemes
in mid to late April, these extremely showy flowers
only last 4 to 7 days. The sepals are reflexed at
maturity with petals extending over 1 cm in length,
and the pedicels of the lowermost flowers in each
raceme are less than 1" long.
They have been observed in flower from April 19 to
April 25 in the Chicagoland area, but blooming periods
can be severely shortened by excessively warm weather.
Favored by birds of all kinds, the reddish-purple fruit
is a 1/4" - 1/3" edible pome that emerges in June.
They are delicious, with a taste somewhat akin to
that of blueberries (only sweeter!)
The autumn coloration on this species is excellent,
ranging from yellow to bronze-red.
Like most members for the Rosaceae family, the
downy serviceberry has potential for numerous problems,
mainly in the form of rusts, fireblight, powdery mildews,
and leaf miners.
Other problems could include borers, mites, scales, and
sawflies, but these tend to be less common.
Seed should be harvested as soon as the fruit is ripe in
mid-summer, and then stratified for 4 months at 40°F.
Dirr claims difficulty in making cuttings, but
recommends the following as the most successful method.
Cuttings should be taken when the end leaf is maturing
and the stem tissue is firming, most likely in mid-May.
3000 to 10000 ppm KIBA-quick dip in peat:perlite with
misting presented 72% rooting, sometimes as high as 96%.
Care should be taken to overwinter in the bed or rooting
cells, as overwintering losses can be high otherwise.
Tissue culture is becoming an increasingly popular
method of propagating the cultivars associated with
this species, although most commercial selections
are either forms of A. laevis or A.
The amelanchiers in general are some of my favorite
they offer interest in all seasons with spring
flowering, summer fruiting, excellent fall color,
and often exhibit interesting bark. In addition,
their tolerance and lack of maintenance make them
seem ideal; unfortunately too much emphasis is being
placed on A. arborea, A. laevis, and
A. x grandiflora. I would prefer to
see more shrubby forms in the coming years, such as
A. humilis and A. stolonifera.
In general, the flowers and fall color show best against
dark backgrounds or in dark corners. I have seen
plantings in front of Tsuga canadensis (Canadian
hemlock) that are utterly amazing. This species is
ideal for naturalization, on building corners, or in
small groves when space is plentiful.
Artemisia caudata, Hamamelis
virginiana, Quercus velutina, Rosa
carolina, Smilacina stellata, Vaccinium
pallidum, Vitis riparia.
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi var. coactilis,
Juniperus communis, Pinus banksiana,
Aralia nudicaulis, Cornus floria,
Maianthemum canadense var. interius,
Mitchella repens, Ostrya virginia,
Polygonatum pubescens, Prunus
virginiana, Solidago caesia.
Acer rubrum, Anemone quinquefolia,
Carpinus caroliniana var. virginiana,
Quercus alba, Quercus rubra.
No information on medicinal usage was available at the
time of this writing, although the edible qualities
of the fruit are renowned.
in mid-summer, the reddish fruit turn purple and
increasingly sweet, although competition with birds
and small animals can be fierce.
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Broad-Leaved Trees & Shrubs, vol. I. Beaverton:
Timber Press, 1976.
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Vascular Flora of Illinois. Carbondale:
Southern Illinois University, 1986.
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Morton Arboretum. Lisle: Morton Arboretum, 1984.
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Guide. Boston: Little Brown, 1977.
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History of Trees of Eastern and Central North
America. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1991.
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Trees and Shrubs. New York: MacMillan
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Trees and Shrubs. Ithica: Cornell University,
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of the Chicago Region. Lisle: Morton Arboretum,
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Dubuque: Kendall / Hunt, 1977.
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