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What is Amelanchier?

Niki Acker
Updated May 17, 2024
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Amelanchier is a genus of about 20 flowering shrubs and trees in the rose family. Its common names include sugarplum, serviceberry, juneberry, and shadbush. Amelanchier is cultivated as an ornamental plant, and some species are also grown for their fruit. The wood of larger plants in the genus can be used to make fishing rods or tool handles.

Plants in the Amelanchier genus grow in temperate climates in the northern hemisphere. The greatest diversity in the genus is found in North America. Amelanchier is native to every state in the United States, with the exception of Hawaii. There are two Asian species — A. asiatica or Asian serviceberry, and A. sineca or Chinese serviceberry — and one European species, A. ovalis or Snowy Mespilus. A. x lamarckii, thought to be a natural hybrid, is also naturalized throughout Europe, though it is not a native plant.

Though the fruit of Amelanchier plants is often referred to as a berry, it is actually a pome, the same type of fruit as an apple, though smaller. Amelanchier fruits are often sweet and may be eaten raw, cooked, or dried. The fruits are usually dark blue or purple.

A. alnifolia, historically called pigeon berry, along with A. spicata or thicket shadbush, grows throughout western North America. A. alnifolia grows to be 3 to 26 feet (1 to 8 meters) in height, and features white flowers that ripen into purple fruits, similar to blueberries. The fruit, often called saskatoon berry, was traditionally used by indigenous people to preserve meat in pemmican. It is commercially harvested today, and eaten in pies, jams, and wines. A. alnifolia grows best in rich, well-drained soil and abundant sunlight, and a single plant can produce fruit for up to 30 years.

A. amabilis, or lovely shadbush, grows in eastern Canada and New England. A. arborea, or downy serviceberry, grows throughout eastern North America. It has drier fruit than most serviceberry species, but the fruit is still cultivated as a food. Indigenous people traditionally use the fruit of A. arborea to make bread. A. arborea grows best in well-drained soil, with full sun and good air circulation.

A. canadensis, or the Canadian serviceberry, is another species of eastern North America with edible fruit. It grows mostly in wet environments, and is sometimes used in bonsai as well as in gardens. A. nantucketensis, or the Nantucket serviceberry, is a North American species of conservation concern in the wild.

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Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a WiseGeek editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
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Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a WiseGeek editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of...
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