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Amelanchier arborea Michx.

Common name(s): Downy Serviceberry, Shadblow, Juneberry, Shadbush, Sarvis-tree
Family: Rosaceae
Type: Woody plant
Size: 15-25' high, variable spread, suckering
40+' possible, but rare
Texture: Medium-fine
Range: 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 (mountain-ash) fruit.

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!)

Fall Color:

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. grandiflora.


The amelanchiers in general are some of my favorite landscape plants 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.

Suggested uses:

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.

Companion plants:

High Dunes:

    Artemisia caudata, Hamamelis virginiana, Quercus velutina, Rosa carolina, Smilacina stellata, Vaccinium pallidum, Vitis riparia.

Pine Barrens:

    Arctostaphylos uva-ursi var. coactilis, Juniperus communis, Pinus banksiana, Prunus pensylvanica.

Mesic Woods:

    Aralia nudicaulis, Cornus floria, Maianthemum canadense var. interius, Mitchella repens, Ostrya virginia, Polygonatum pubescens, Prunus virginiana, Solidago caesia.

Other woods:

    Acer rubrum, Anemone quinquefolia, Carpinus caroliniana var. virginiana, Quercus alba, Quercus rubra.

Medicinal uses:

No information on medicinal usage was available at the time of this writing, although the edible qualities of the fruit are renowned.

Usually ripening in mid-summer, the reddish fruit turn purple and increasingly sweet, although competition with birds and small animals can be fierce.


  • Bubel, Nancy. The New Seed-starters Handbook. Emmaus: Rodale Press, 1988.
  • Dirr, Michael. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Champaign: Stipes Publishing, 1990.
  • Johnson, Warren T. and Howard H. Lyon. Insects That Feed on Trees and Shrubs. Ithica: Cornell University, 1994.
  • Krussmann, Gerd. Manual of Cultivated Broad-Leaved Trees & Shrubs, vol. I. Beaverton: Timber Press, 1976.
  • Mohlenbrock, Robert H. Guide to the Vascular Flora of Illinois. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University, 1986.
  • Morton Arboretum. Woody Plants of the Morton Arboretum. Lisle: Morton Arboretum, 1984.
  • Newcomb, Lawrence. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. Boston: Little Brown, 1977.
  • Peattie, Donald Culross. A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1991.
  • Rehder, Alfred. Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs. New York: MacMillan Publishing.
  • Sinclair, Wayne A. et al. Diseases of Trees and Shrubs. Ithica: Cornell University, 1993.
  • Swink, Floyd and Gerould Wilhelm. Plants of the Chicago Region. Lisle: Morton Arboretum, 1994.
  • Walters, Dirk R. and David J. Keil. Vascular Plant Taxonomy, Third Edition. Dubuque: Kendall / Hunt, 1977.
  • Wyman, Donald. Wyman's Gardening Encyclopedia. New York: MacMillan, 1986.

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