Serviceberry

Saskatoon Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)

A winter-hardy (zone 4) native shrub of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. It has beautiful coarsely toothed leaves that are attractive even in the dry summer. The flowers are white and apple-like, fragrant and appear very early in the spring. Delicious blueberry-like fruit follow in midsummer. Birds are very fond of them and the American Indians used to mix these serviceberries with fat and buffalo meat to make their winter staple, pemmican. The Canadians have been working to develop this plant for fruit production.

            The shrub has an upright and arching habit that is highly variable in height, depending on water and soil, ranging from as little as 3’ to 20’. It is capable of being trained as a single-stem tree (sometimes incapable) or can be allowed to sucker into a clump or thicket. Water requirements are described as moderate to low. In my own xeriscape garden  this shrub has grown to 3  1/2’ in 8 years; it has not suckered and it flowers and fruits yearly, though I’m sure it would grow faster and produce more fruit with more water. It is tolerant of alkaline soils, has wonderful yellow and reddish fall color and grows to 8500’. Although best in full sun, it succeeds in part shade. Aphids are a minor problem (never has been on mine, grown dry) and there are seldom disease problems if grown in the sun. The cultivar ‘Regent’ is shorter (4’-6’) and  produces more fruit.