Native Plant Spotlight – Downy Serviceberry

— Written By and last updated by Nancie Mandeville
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Downy Serviceberry

Amelanchier arborea, commonly called Downy Serviceberry is native from Maine south to northern Florida and west to Louisiana and Iowa. Other common names for this plant include Juneberry and Shadbush.

Downy serviceberry is a deciduous early-flowering large shrub or small tree that typically grows 15-25’ tall in cultivation but can reach 40’ in the wild. It has smooth bark when young and develops furrows and long, vertical splits with age.

This is one of the earliest flowering trees, leading to the reason for a couple of its common names. The common name Serviceberry because back in the day folks who died in the winter were often not buried until the circuit preacher could get around in early spring, often at the same time the plant was blooming. Another common name of Shadbush arose because the tree was in bloom when the shad fish began its annual spawning run.

The tree produces star-shaped white to pale pink flowers in early spring. It is a host plant for red-spotted purple and Viceroy butterflies. Butterflies and other insects feed on nectar from the blooms. The fruit resembling a small, red apple ripens in June, giving it another of its common names, Juneberry. The fruit is delicious, ripening over a period of three to four weeks in June. The fruit is eaten by songbirds and mammals so if you grow this plant and want to harvest the fruit, you must monitor for when it will be ready for harvest or the wildlife may beat you to it.

Downy serviceberry will grow in the Piedmont in partial shade to full sun and likes well-drained soil but will tolerate soil that is occasionally wet. It is naturally found along woodland borders, streambanks, and fence rows so work best in a naturalist landscape.

Join the Master Gardener℠ volunteers of Union County Thursday, Nov 7, 2019, at 7 p.m. for their last Successful Gardener program of 2019. The discussion will be about resources that you can use to satisfy your hunger for educational opportunities related to gardening in the wintertime even in your pajamas!