Plant Lore: Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)

Image by seven75 courtesy iStock. 

The serviceberry, Amelanchier canadensis, beloved for its early spring bloom and its delicious edible red berries in summer, which is why it’s also known as Juneberry, is equally striking in the fall when its foliage produces a show-stopping display of brilliant reds and oranges.


While autumn and spring color is reason enough to adore this slow-growing mid-size tree, generations past appreciated it for another, more macabre, reason: As the story goes, early American settlers – unable to bury their dead during the winter due to the frozen ground – took the blooming of the serviceberry tree as a signal that the ground had thawed enough to dig again, and thus, hold funeral services.

A profusion of fluffy white blooms grace the branches of Amelanchier each spring. Image by Whiteway courtesy iStock. 

And, as if two common names for this tree isn't confusing enough, Amelanchier is also known as shadbush, or shadberry, due to the fact that its spring blossoms coincided with the running of the shad fish in the Hudson River each spring.