Dancing Serviceberries

Photo courtesy Bailey Nurseries

Serviceberry trees and shrubs provide beautiful white blossoms in early spring, followed by tasty reddish/purple fruits in June or July and wrapping up with nice fall colors of yellow/orange/red.  As I have watched Serviceberres offer me visual and taste treats in spring, summer and fall over the years, my admiration for the Serviceberry family has grown and grown.

Amelanchier is the  botanical name for this group of large shrubs / small trees, and the common names for varieties we have found quite useful are Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, Regent Serviceberry and Shadblow Serviceberry.  Another common name for the Serviceberries is Juneberry.  Regardless of the variety, Serviceberries grow best in soils with good to moderate drainage.  I think its best to avoid soggy / wet ground when planting Serviceberries.

Regent Serviceberry has a smaller mature size than Autumn Brilliance and Shadblow. with a size rating of  3′ x 6′ tall and wide.  Regent Serviceberry has dense branching and produces a bumper crop of subtle flavored fruit in late June / early July.  The shorter size of Regent Serviceberry makes for easy picking!

Both Shadblow Serviceberry and Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry have size ratings of 15′ -20′ tall and wide making them a large shrub / small tree and are used in landscapes as an ornamental tree to frame a corner, establish a side yard and as background for planting of smaller shrubs and perennials.  Shadblow Serviceberry (Amelanchier Canadensis) is usually found as a multi-stem / clump shrubs / tree.  Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry (Amelanchier xGrandiflora) is available in both a single stem tree and a clump / multi-stem form!

Serviceberries are versatile, being able to grow in full sun to part shade.  The sunnier the location, the better the fruit production and fall color.  The serviceberries I see growing wild in Northern Minnesota and Canada seem to be an edge tree that grows along  the lake shore, open ridges and as a pioneer species in burned areas.

On a late May journey to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area some years ago, Serviceberries began to dance in my imagination and right before my eyes as never before.  There is always anticipation and  excitement when I head North on another adventure in Canoe Country  and as we head up Interstate 35 toward Ely,  I began to see something like small white clouds floating on the edges of woodlots, fields, lakes and streams.  At first, I didn’t realize what I was seeing but mile after mile I saw the delicate white dancing in the wind on the branches, swaying with each wind gust.

Then I remembered the day many years earlier when we had discovered a burned island in the Boundary Waters that was re-growing vigorously with a mix of raspberries, pin cherries and Serviceberries.  I feasted on the raspberries until a friend got me to try the Serviceberries.  I love the subtle and mildly sweet flavor and I was hooked on Serviceberries.

In subsequent years, as my truck rolled North I saw more and more of the white dotting the forest edge.  Suddenly I knew.  It was the Serviceberries in bloom, just as they had been on the burned over island.  I had to be sure, so I stopped the truck and hiked up the ditch to closely examine the blossoms I’d been seeing for a couple of hours.  The lazy white blossoms were indeed Serviceberry and covered almost the whole tree.

Every time the wind came up the Serviceberries danced and my imagination danced with them.  I would soon be slipping my canoe in the water, and gliding quietly past the dancing Serviceberies on the place that more than any other on earth provides me with a deep connection toe natural world and a sense of spiritual renewal.