In praise of Serviceberry

Serviceberry, shadblow, chuckly pear, juneberry, sugar plum, wild pear, wild plum, sarvis tree, maycherry and Indian pear- all are colloquial names for Amelanchier.  The profusion of common names for this native shrub is a good example of why scientific names are used!

With its star-shaped brilliant white flowers, glossy purplish red fruit, vibrant fall colour, attractive branching habit and its relatively non-fussy growing requirements, Amelanchier is a premiere shrub for gardeners.  The 10 species that are native to North America generally share the following characteristics:

They are  multi-stemmed shrubs, which can  be trained as trees;

* The average height is 6-8 metres at maturity;

* Leaves are alternate, elliptical-ovate and finely  toothed;

* Flowers are five-petalled, white, and about 3 cm wide, borne on terminal clusters;

* Red-purplish fruits (pomes) are edible and are a favourite of birds;

* The shrub is tolerant of many habitats and soils and can be grown in fields, forests, waste areas;

* Seed is dispersed primarily by  birds. Vegetative propagation can take place by rhizomes;

* Pollination is  by insects, including native bees.

Amelanchier species in Canada

Below is a list of the common species of Amelanchier in Canada.

Amelanchier arborea
Downy serviceberry
Eastern N.A.*leaves 4-10 cm long
*finely toothed leaves with soft hairs on underside when young
*bark light-gray
*fruit 6-10 mm in diameter
*fall colour ranges from yellow to red
*can grow to 12 metres, making it one of the tallest species
Amelanchier alnifolia
Saskatoon berry
Manitoba/Ontario border, western Canada and U.S.*valued for its fruit- used in commercial production in the prairies and Alberta
*leaves oval-rounded and dark green
*’Obelisk- upright shrub that can be used as a hedge
‘Northline’- 2-3 metres at maturity with 16 mm berries
‘Thiessen’- large shrub producing largest berries – 17 mm
Amelanchier canadensis
Juneberry, or shadblow
Easter North America*attractive branching habit
*flowers slightly fragrant
*6-9 metres in height
*’Prince William”- noted for its large flowers – 2.5 cm across
*’Rainbow pillar’- upright, columnar habit
Amelanchier laevis
Allegheny serviceberry
North America*similar to Juneberry, fruit is sweeter
*leaves reddish as they emerge
*typical height 5-6 metres
*’Cumulus”- flowers borne on long pendulous clusters
Amelanchier X grandiflora
Apple serviceberry
*Natural hybrid between A. arborea and A. laevis
*height 6-8 metres
*leaves have bronze tint when emerging in spring
*’Autumn brilliance’- red fall colour
‘Forest Prince’- oval habit and orange red fall colour
‘Princess Diana’- upright habit, red fall colour

Insects and diseases

Although Amelanchier is a generally maintenance free shrub, it is still subject to various diseases and pest infestations. The most common are described below.


Shadbush leafminer (Tischeria amelanchierella): an insect that tunnels between the upper and lower epidermis of a leaf. Diagnostic features are silk tunnels on surface of leaf, and frass.

Round headed apple tree borer (Saperda candida): a long-horned bettle that bores into trunks, sometimes causing death to the plant.  Diagnostic features are sawdust castings at the base of trees.

Fall webworm (Hypanthria cunea): a moth that lays its eggs on the underside of leaves and is generally active in mid-summer-late fall. Diagnostic features: web-like structures at the ends of twigs containing larvae. The larvae will eat the leaves in their web and will enlarge their structure as needed.

Aphids  (Aphidoidea): an insect that feeds on the sap of phloem tissue. Diagnostic features: Large clusters of green or orange insects will invade the plant. Symptoms include mottled leaves, yellowing, stunted growth, curled leaves, browning, wilting, low yields and death of the plant.


Fire blight: caused by bacterium Erwinia amylovora. The bacteria infects many members of the Rosaeceae family, attacking the fruit, stem, shoot and blossoms.

Quince rust (Gymnosporangium clavipes): A fungus that infects the leaves fruit of the family Rosaceae. Diagnostic features include orange spots on leaves that appear in late spring to early summer. Leaf drop and fruit damage can result.

Powdery mildew: This  fungus that affects a large number of plants. Diagnostic symptoms include white powdery spots on leaves and stems. The fungus grows well in humid, temperate conditions. Powdery mildew: This  fungus that affects a large number of plants. Diagnostic symptoms include white powdery spots on leaves and stems. The fungus grows well in humid, temperate conditions.

And then there are the health benefits!

Although most gardeners rarely enjoy the fruit of their Amelanchier shrubs, having been outcompeted by the birds, there is some evidence that the fruit is high in nutrients.

A study published in the Journal of Functional Foods in 2016 listed the nutrients found in the fruit, including manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium and copper. In addition, the fruit is rich in nutraceuticals such as anthocyanins, chlorogenic acid, catechins and rutin. There is also some research indicating that the fruit has antidiabetic properties.   The report’s conclusion states: “the study indicates that the serviceberry fruits present a plethora of phytochemicals with the capacity to promote health and protect against chronic diseases.”


Donno, D., Cerutti A.K et al. Serviceberry- a berry fruit with growing interest of industry. Journal of Functional Foods, 2016; 26; pp. 157-166

Eastman, John. The Book of Forest and Thicket. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books; 1992.

Farrar, John.  Trees in Canada. Markham, Ontario: Fitzhenry and Whiteside Ltd.; 1995.

Perry, Leonard. “Serviceberries” University of Vermont Extension, Dept. of Plant and Soil Science. Accessed February 2017..

Zuzek, Kathy, Berlin, Beth.  “Serviceberry or Juneberry (Amelanchier spp)”.University of Minnesota Extension. Accessed February 2017.

Submitted by Sabine Behnk