Serviceberry Tree

All about the Serviceberry tree

Many people think that the serviceberry tree is one of the most beautiful trees in the United States. Because of its various sizes, it can be considered a bush or a tree. Some of these trees can grow to be forty feet tall, while others remain in the ten- to twenty-foot range. There are 45 species of Serviceberry trees.

The serviceberry tree is known by different names, depending on where you are located. It is known as Saskatoon berry, juneberry, shadblow and shadbush. They are in the same family of plants as roses. It has bluish-green elliptical leaves that turn into intense fall foliage colors of yellows, oranges and reds. Winter finds the serviceberry with bare branches but a very beautiful and interesting trunk that is gray with streaks running across it vertically.

When spring comes, the serviceberry tree greets you with an abundance of showy white flowers, which only last about a week. The flowers are beautiful but not large--only about 1-½ inches across. Then comes summer and the tree starts to grow juicy berries. These begin green and then change to red and finally to a purple-black color when they are fully ripe. The berries are delicious and can be snacked on from the tree or harvested and used to make all types of baked goods or canned into jams and jellies.

The Native Americans were growing the serviceberry tree when the settlers arrived on the first ships. The berries taste somewhat like blueberries. Today they are used by some companies who make foods with mixed berries. There is a market for more serviceberries but so far no one is producing any in huge quantities at the right prices. If you have a serviceberry tree in the backyard, you can give the fruit a try by experimenting with different recipes, such as a serviceberry pie.

Don’t wait too long to harvest your serviceberries. You will undoubtedly want to do it immediately when they ripen, because birds think they are a very tasty treat as well. In fact, if you are a bird lover, you may want to plant some serviceberry trees just to attract birds. They will draw all types of birds, including blue jays, robins, mockingbirds, American goldfinch, cardinals, brown thrashers,  and tufted titmice.

There are some excellent hybrids of the serviceberry tree. They were produced by crossbreeding the Allegheny serviceberry with the Juneberry serviceberry. Although they are not routinely found at many garden centers, there are places where you can buy them online. The most popular varieties of hybrids are Princess Diana, Autumn Brilliance, and Forest Prince.                                                           

Don’t be disappointed when a serviceberry tree doesn’t deliver a bumper crop the first year out, because it actually takes two to three years to get one to produce fruit. Today, the tree is used most often for ornamental purposes as a landscape tree. They are often planted in large groupings, where they make for splendid fall foliage or in front of evergreen trees where they make nice contrasting colors. Sometimes smaller serviceberry trees are used as hedges.

The serviceberry tree does have its share of pests and diseases just like all other types of fruit trees. It can be susceptible to aphids and spider mites. The leaves can be attacked by leaf miners or pear sawflies. Witches broom, a common plant disease, attacks the ends of the branches and forms a group of stems, which are said to look like brooms. Black fungus will attack the bottom of the leaves. Your serviceberry tree can be returned to health by simply pruning off the brooms.