Brief Summary

Amelanchier, serviceberry, is a genus of about 20 species of deciduous-leaved shrubs and small trees in the Rose family (Rosaceae), native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Common names of species in the genus include shadbush, serviceberry, and juneberry, attributed to the fact that the flowers (which bloom early in the spring, before the leaves emerge) open at about the time when shad run, and when the ground when thawed enough for graves to be dug and mourners to travel to funeral services, and the fruits ripen in June.

Most species occur in the northeastern U.S. and adjacent southeastern Canada, although there is at least one native species in every U.S. state and Canadian province or territory except Hawaii. Taxonomic classification of the genus is difficult; like many genera in Rosaceae, Amelanchiers hybridize readily and show a considerable amount of apomixis (asexual seed production) and polyploidy (different multiples of chromosome numbers), so classifications vary considerably in the number of species recognized.

Amelanchier species grow to 0.2–20 m tall, and may be small trees, clump-forming shrubs, or low-growing extensive clonal stands. Bark is thin, smooth, gray to brown, often with darker striations. Branches are generally slender, with alternative leaves ranging in shape from lanceolate to elliptic to orbiculate, up to 10 cm (3 inches) long and 5.5 cm (just under 2 inches) wide, and pubescent or white woolly when young. Inflorescences are terminal, with either clusters of 1–4 flowers, or racemes (elongated flower stems) with 4–20 flowers. Flowers are often showy, with 5 white petals (or occasionally pink, yellow, or streaked with red), up to 2.5 cm (1 inch) long. The fruit is a berry-like pome, red to purple to nearly black at maturity, up to 1.5 cm in diameter.

Fruits are edible, and are prized by birds as well as people, and can be eaten fresh or used in pies or jams. Although sometimes insipid, the flavor can be a delightful combination of blueberry and almond flavors with a rose scent, which has inspired one botanical author to wax poetic on its virtues: “It seems quite unnecessary to descant upon the delicacy of its flavor; it is so antecedently improbable that ordinary mortals should ever have an opportunity to enjoy it” (Keeler 1969). The fruits are gathered locally from the wild or from garden plantings, but are not commercially grown.

Most Amelanchiers are found in moist woods, swamps, and along river banks, although a few species grow in drier areas (prairies and barrens). Their fruits are important to at least 40 bird species and many mammals, and leaves are eaten by various insect herbivores. Twigs and foliage are browsed by deer, moose, and elk; heavy browsing in some regions inhibits regeneration.

Amelanchiers are valued for garden and ornamental plantings for their early spring flowers, fall color, and attractive winter bark. Various horticultural varieties and hybrids have been developed. A. spicata, a North American species widely cultivated in European gardens, is invasive in much of Northern Europe.

(Campbell and Doucette 2011, Gleason and Cronquist 1991, Interactive Flora of Northwest Europe 2011, Kabuce and Priede 2011, Keeler 1969, Martin et al. 1951, Soper and Heimburger 1990, Wikpedia 2011)

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Known predators

Amelanchier (Populus, Symphoricarpos, Corylus, Prunus, Amelanchier) is prey of:
Bonasa umbellus
Lepus americanus
Spermophilus franklinii

Based on studies in:
Canada: Manitoba (Forest)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 406 (1930).
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:125
Specimens with Sequences:156
Specimens with Barcodes:130
Species With Barcodes:18
Public Records:60
Public Species:15
Public BINs:0
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Barcode data

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Amelanchier (/æməˈlænʃɪər/ am-ə-LAN-sheer),[2] also known as shadbush, shadwood or shadblow, serviceberry or sarvisberry, or just sarvis, wild pear, juneberry, saskatoon, sugarplum or wild-plum, and chuckley pear is a genus of about 20 species of deciduous-leaved shrubs and small trees in the Rose family (Rosaceae).

Amelanchier is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, growing primarily in early successional habitats. It is most diverse taxonomically in North America, especially in the northeastern United States and adjacent southeastern Canada, and at least one species is native to every U.S. state except Hawaii and to every Canadian province and territory. Two species also occur in Asia, and one in Europe. The taxonomic classification of shadbushes has long perplexed botanists, horticulturalists, and others, as suggested by the range in number of species recognized in the genus, from 6 to 33, in two recent publications.[3][4] A major source of complexity comes from the occurrence of hybridization, polyploidy, and apomixis (asexual seed production), making species difficult to characterize and identify.[5]

The various species of Amelanchier grow to 0.2–20 m tall; some are small trees, some are multistemmed, clump-forming shrubs, and yet others form extensive low shrubby patches (clones). The bark is gray or less often brown, and in tree species smooth or fissuring when older. The leaves are deciduous, cauline, alternate, simple, lanceolate to elliptic to orbiculate, 0.5–10 x 0.5–5.5 cm, thin to coriaceous, with surfaces above glabrous or densely tomentose at flowering, and glabrous or more or less hairy beneath at maturity. The inflorescences are terminal, with 1–20 flowers, erect or drooping, either in clusters of one to four flowers, or in racemes with 4–20 flowers. The flowers have five white (rarely somewhat pink, yellow, or streaked with red), linear to orbiculate petals, 2.6–25 mm long, with the petals in one species (A. nantucketensis) often andropetalous (bearing apical microsporangia adaxially). The flowers appear in early spring, "when the shad run" according to tradition (leading to names such as "shadbush"). The fruit is a berry-like pome, red to purple to nearly black at maturity, 5–15 mm diameter, insipid to delectably sweet, maturing in summer.[5]

Amelanchier plants are valued horticulturally, and their fruits are important to wildlife.

Selected species[edit]

Amelanchier alnifolia

For North American species, the taxonomy follows the forthcoming Flora of North America;[5][6] for Asian species the Flora of China;[7] and for European species the Flora Europaea.[8]

Since classifications have varied greatly over the past century, species names are often used interchangeably in the nursery trade. Several natural or horticultural hybrids also exist, and many A. arborea and A. canadensis plants that are offered for sale are actually hybrids, or entirely different species.

A taxon called Amelanchier lamarckii (or A. x lamarckii) is very widely cultivated and naturalized in Europe, where it was introduced in the 17th century. It is apomictic, breeding true from seed, and probably of hybrid origin, perhaps descending from a cross between A. laevis and either A. arborea or A. canadensis. While A. lamarckii is known to be of North American origin, probably from eastern Canada, it is not known to occur naturally in the wild in North America.[22][23]


The origin of the generic name Amelanchier is probably derived from amalenquièr, amelanchièr, the Provençal names of the European Amelanchier ovalis.[24]

The name serviceberry comes from the similarity of the fruit to the related European Sorbus.

A fanciful etymology explains the name 'serviceberry' by noting that the flowers bloom about the time roads in the Appalachian mountains became passable, allowing circuit-riding preachers to resume church services. A similar etymology says that blooming serviceberry indicated the ground had thawed enough to dig graves, so burial services could be held for those who died in the winter when the only way to deal with the bodies was to allow them to freeze and wait for spring. Both of these fanciful etymologies are unlikely to be correct since the term is attested for both English and New World species as early as the 16th century, well before settlement of English North America,[25] and serviceberry is far from unique in blossoming early in the year.

Juneberry refers to the fruits of certain species becoming ripe in June. The name saskatoon originated from a Cree Indian noun misâskwatômina (misāskwatōmina, misaaskwatoomina) for Amelanchier alnifolia. The city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is named after this plant.

Shadberry refers to the shad runs in certain New England streams, which generally took place about when the trees bloomed.


Amelanchier plants are preferred browse for deer and rabbits, and heavy browsing pressure can suppress natural regeneration. Caterpillars of such Lepidoptera as Brimstone Moth, Brown-tail, Grey Dagger, Mottled Umber, Rough Prominent, The Satellite, Winter Moth, and the Red-Spotted Purple and the White Admiral (both Limenitis arthemis), as well as various other herbivorous insects feed on Amelanchier. Many insects and diseases that attack orchard trees also affect this genus, in particular trunk borers and Gymnosporangium rust. In years when late flowers of Amelanchier overlap those of wild roses and brambles, bees may spread bacterial fireblight.

Fruit and leaves of Amelanchier ovalis

Uses and cultivation[edit]

The fruit of several species are excellent to eat raw, tasting somewhat like a blueberry, strongly accented by the almond-like flavour of the seeds. Selections from Amelanchier alnifolia have been chosen for fruit production, with several named cultivars.[26] Other cultivars appear to be derived from hybridization between A. alnifolia and A. stolonifera.[26] Propagation is by seed, divisions, and grafting. Serviceberries graft so readily that grafts onto other genera, such as Crataegus and Sorbus, are often successful.[citation needed]

Fruit is harvested locally for pies and jams.[27] The saskatoon berry is harvested commercially. One version of the Native American food pemmican was flavored by serviceberry fruits in combination with minced dried meat and fat.

The wood is brown, hard, close-grained, and heavy. The heartwood is reddish-brown, and the sapwood is lighter in color. It can be used for tool handles and fishing rods. Native Americans used it for arrow shafts. Members of the Pit River Tribe would use the wood to create a sort of body armor, crafting it into a heavy robe or overcoat and corset armor worn during fighting.[28]

Garden history[edit]

Several species are very popular ornamental shrubs, grown for their flowers, bark, and fall color. All need similar conditions to grow well, requiring good drainage, air circulation (to discourage leaf diseases), watering during drought, and soil appropriate for the species.

George Washington planted specimens of Amelanchier on the grounds of his estate, Mount Vernon, in Virginia.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Potter, D., et al. (2007). Phylogeny and classification of Rosaceae. Plant Systematics and Evolution. 266(1–2): 5–43. [Referring to the subfamily by the name "Spiraeoideae"]
  2. ^ "amelanchier". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. 
  3. ^ Landry, P. (1975). Le concept d'espece et la taxonomie du genre Amelanchier (Rosacees). Bull. Soc. Bot. France 122: 43-252.
  4. ^ Phipps, J. B., Robertson, K. R., Smith, P. G., & Rohrer, J. R. (1990). A checklist of the subfamily Maloideae (Rosaceae). Canad. J. Bot. 68: 2209–2269.
  5. ^ a b c University of Maine: Amelanchier Systematics and Evolution
  6. ^ Campbell, C. S., Dibble, A. C., Frye, C. T., & Burgess, M. B. (2008; accepted for publication). Amelanchier. In FNA Editorial Committee, Flora of North America 9. Magnoliophyta: Rosidae (in part): Rosales (in part). Oxford University Press, New York.
  7. ^ Flora of China: Amelanchier
  8. ^ Flora Europaea: Amelanchier
  9. ^ University of Maine: Amelanchier alnifolia var. alnifolia
  10. ^ University of Maine: Amelanchier amabilis
  11. ^ University of Maine: Amelanchier arborea
  12. ^ University of Maine: Amelanchier bartramiana
  13. ^ University of Maine: Amelanchier canadensis var. canadensis
  14. ^ University of Maine: Amelanchier humilis
  15. ^ University of Maine: Amelanchier interior
  16. ^ University of Maine: Amelanchier laevis
  17. ^ Flora Europaea: Amelanchier ovalis
  18. ^ University of Maine: Amelanchier sanguinea
  19. ^ Flora of China: Amelanchier sinica
  20. ^ University of Maine: Amelanchier spicata
  21. ^ University of Maine: Amelanchier utahensis
  22. ^ Bean, W. J. (1976). Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles 8th ed., vol. 1. John Murray ISBN 0-7195-1790-7.
  23. ^ Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins ISBN 0-00-220013-9.
  24. ^ Jepson Flora: Amelanchier alnifolia
  25. ^ Oxford English Dictionary http://www.oed.com
  26. ^ a b American Society for Horticultural Science (1997). The Brooks and Olmo Register of Fruit & Nut Varieties, 3rd ed. ASHS Press. 
  27. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watchv=wokPJzsV730&feature=channel_page
  28. ^ Merriam, C. Hart 1966 Ethnographic Notes on California Indian Tribes. University of California Archaeological Research Facility, Berkeley (p. 222)
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