shadbush (serviceberry) blooms in spring

Shadbush: A Spring Blooming Beauty

The five-petal blossom of the Shadbush tree in my garden.
The five-petal blossom of the Shadbush tree in my garden.

Shadbush is one of my favorite native trees as regular readers of this blog know. I like it because it is small and beautiful and at the same time inconspicuous. Except when it bears fruit in June, it doesn’t look like a fruit tree. And the berries are not what people are used to, so they are not tempted to pick the berries like they would with a cherry tree. One of the common names for the Shadbush is Indian Cherry. The berries are sweet and tasty. This photo is from last year.

A Shadbush tree in my garden.
A berry on the Shadbush tree in my garden.

Birds love the berries. Shadbush will draw fruit-eating birds like Robins and other Thrushes into your garden.

For those who don’t know the name refers to a bit of phenology. When the Shadbush blooms in April, the Shad (a tasty bony fish) are migrating up the rivers to spawn. In Philadelphia, spawning takes place in the Schuylkill River.

The name Serviceberry apparently refers to spring when the snows would melt and itinerant preachers began the rounds to towns and conducting Christian church services.

Common name: Common Serviceberry, Sarvis-berry, shadblow, shadbush, juneberry, sugarplum, Indian cherry

Scientific name: Amelanchier canadensis

Family name: Rosaceae Rose family

Shadbush (Serviceberry)
Shadbush (Serviceberry) berries from the tree in my garden.

Attracts: At least 40 bird species (for example, mockingbirds, cardinals, cedar waxwings, towhees, Baltimore orioles) eat the fruit of species. Mammals that either eat the fruit or browse the twigs and leaves of downy serviceberry include squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, mice, voles, foxes, black bears, deer, and elk. The fruits taste similar to blueberry – they are eaten fresh or cooked in pastries or puddings.

The oval leaf of the Shadbush tree in my garden.
The oval leaf of the Shadbush tree in my garden.

Host plant to: Gypsy moth larvae feed selectively on downy Serviceberry.

Native range: Common Serviceberry is widespread in the eastern US and southeastern Canada (New Brunswick and southern Newfoundland to Quebec and Ontario); south to the northern tip of the Florida Panhandle and west to Alabama, southern Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas (rare), Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota.

Habitat: prefers moist but well-drained soil but will also grow in dry sites. It grows in a variety of habitats – swampy lowlands, dry woods, sandy bluffs, rocky ridges, forest edges, and open woodlands and fields. It is a late successional to climax species in mixed-hardwood forests of the central U.S., commonly as an understory species. In the southern Appalachians, downy serviceberry grows in red spruce-Fraser fir forests at elevations of 1500-2000 meters with yellow birch, mountain ash, elderberry, and hobblebush.

Height: 15 to 30 feet tall; it’s an understory tree in the forest
Light needed: partial shade to full sun
Soil: moist, well-drained soil but tolerates dry soil
Hardiness zones: 4-9
Problems: No serious disease problems, Rust, leaf spot, blight and powdery mildew are sometime disease problems,
Insect pests:sawfly, leaf miner, borers and scale are sometime insect pests.
Bloom period:(March), April-May, among the first of the early spring trees and shrubs to bloom; fruiting June-August.
Bloom color: white

Growing Tips: regenerates mainly by seed, but it also sprouts from the roots. Birds and mammals disperse seeds; scarification of the seeds after ingestion by birds is important for germination. Seeds can be sown after 2-6 months of cold stratification, but they will not usually germinate until after the second spring.

Description: The trees are used as ornamentals and many cultivars have been selected for variation in growth habit, flower size and color, and leaf color. This small tree maybe grown along ponds and stream beds.

The fall foliage blends orange and gold with red and green. The fruits are sweet, purple-ish black berries

There are many native species of Serviceberry including Amelanchier canadensis, the species I have planted in my Philadelphia garden.

Resource: Plant Fact Sheet/Guide Coordination Page

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    • Hello, Jacqui!

      Thanks for visiting my website. I visited your site and see you really do like to hike. My mom is from Sumter, South Carolina and I visit her side of the family often.

      I am following your blog, too.

      Take care.

  1. The blossom reminds me of our Saskatoon or Serviceberry tree (Amelanchier alnifolia) here on the West Coast. Very pretty.

    Glad I read further than the “Reader” summary on your post … I just learned another name for the Serviceberry! Interesting how the names Serviceberry and Shadbush came to be.

    The Saskatoon berries were highly regarded by native peoples in the Northwest and dried into cakes for storage. The berries provide winter browse for elk, deer, and many birds.

    Thank you for the informative post, Donna.

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