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April Flora Spotlight:
Serviceberry

Serviceberry 
Amelanchier arborea


According to legend, the early pioneers aptly named this small tree serviceberry due to the fact that the opening of the blossoms coincided with the ground being thawed enough to finally bury the winterís dead. Common names include Downy Serviceberry, Juneberry, Shadbush, Servicetree and Sarvis-tree. The name Shadbush is thought to come from the fact that the tree blooms when the shad are running in the streams here in North Carolina.

Serviceberry is one of my favorite early spring blooming trees. Clusters of fragrant white flowers that give way to very flavorful, purple-black, berrylike fruits that are favored by over forty species of birds, which aid greatly in its dispersal. This also promotes seed germination through seed scarification during the digestion process. Dozens of mammal species including squirrels, chipmunks, mice, foxes, black bears, and elk can also disperse the seeds.

A member of the Rosaceae family, Serviceberry likes full sun or partial shade and is best used near ponds and stream. It prefers well-drained, acidic soil and is tolerant of pollution. This fine shrub or small tree is an excellent choice for your landscape.  Amelanchier arborea has an extensive root network and can be used to help stabilize slopes.

Various parts of the tree were used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes such as a remedy for coughs, toothaches and as a laxative. The branches were made into arrows. The berries were used in making breads, wine, dried for snacks in winter and a tea. Today recipes for the berries include jams, pies and a few years ago I used them to make ice cream.

The colorful fall foliage is a blend of orange, gold, red and green. With beautiful fragrant flowers in spring, delicious berries in summer and colorful fall foliage Serviceberry is a great native tree for any landscape.

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