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Amelanchier alnifolia

WESTERN SERVICEBERRY, SASKATOON SERVICEBERRY, SASKATOON BERRY, JUNE BERRY
Family:Rosaceae
Pronounced: am-e-LANG-kee-er al-nih-FOE-lee-uh


GROWING GUIDE

Geographic Origin:
North America
Plant Group:
Trees.
Hardiness:
Sunset zones: A1-A3, 1-6.
USDA zones: 4-9.
Heat zones: 8-3.
Mature size:
Height: 12-20 feet (4-6 m).
Width: 12 feet (4 m).
Flowering period:
Late spring.
Flowering attributes:
Compact clusters of flowers bearing 5 white, strap-like petals. The flower buds are pure white. Flowers are followed by glabrous, glaucous, red-turning-to-purple-black fruit.
Leaf attributes:
Broadly oval, 2-inch long, green leaves that turn red and yellow in the fall.
Light:
Partial shade to full sun.
Soil:
Fertile, acidic, moist, well-drained soil.
Propagation Methods:
Sow seed when ripe and place in cold frame. Seed needs 3-6 months cold stratification at 33-44°F.
Remove suckers in winter.
Semi-ripe cuttings in summer.
Pruning Methods:
This shrub needs minimal pruning. Remove crossing and wayward stems in late winter to early spring after bloom.
Pruning Methods:
May be susceptible to aphids, leaf spot or powdery mildew.

Rainy Side Notes

Saskatoon berry, most often called serviceberry, grows along rocky shorelines, bluffs, meadows, and forest edges. The largest one of this species thrives in Beacon Rock State Park in Washington, standing 42 feet tall by 43 feet wide. However, the serviceberries growing in lower elevations normally reach up to ten feet high. Every fall the saskatoon leaves turn our hillsides into a kaleidoscope of flaming reds or bright yellow hues.

Serviceberry is sometimes confused with Amelanchier florida, and now called A. alnifolia var. semi-intregrifolia, set apart by their smaller flowers and rounder leaves.

Ethnobotany

This was a common food source for many indigenous cultures across the maritime Pacific Northwest region, as well as across North America. The Haida and Kwakwaka'wakw of British Columbia had names that meant sweet berry.

Chehalis, Chinook, Klallam, Lummi, Quileute, Samish, Skagit, Snohomish, and Swinomish tribes of Washington State used the berries and/or wood. Berries were eaten fresh or dried, while the wood was used to make silver-dollar-sized disks for a gambling game, and rigging for halibut fishing lines.

In the Garden

This suckering shrub is adaptable to the home garden and especially suited for the wildlife friendly garden. The berries are ornamental, beginning as dusty red and turning to purple black when they ripen in August. If you can harvest the fruit before the birds do, the musty-blueberry taste of the berries make great, mouth-watering pies.

For wildlife habitat, this is an excellent choice for the garden. While the birds eat the berries, bees and butterflies usethe shrub as an important nectar source. The small tree is also a host plant for the caterpillars of swallowtails and other butterflies.

Debbie Teashon

Rainy Side Gardeners — rainyside.com