For a Bird Garden, Plant Serviceberry

For a bird garden, plant serviceberry, serviceberry and more serviceberry. Then if you find some space, plant another serviceberry.

Over the years I have planted a considerable number of trees and shrubs for birds. Some worked, some were later ripped out as a waste of space. Serviceberry is not one I culled. In fact I would place it in my top Five Most Successful Bird Plants list. When I moved to my new home, two serviceberry went in before I had unpacked.

Serviceberry Amelanchier is a small native tree or shrub known by many names. Saskatoon, Juneberry, Shadblow, Shadbush, Shad, Sarvis tree, or Servicetree are a few. There are several species in the genus, a few are:

Amelanchier arborea – Downy serviceberry
Amelanchier alnifolia – Western serviceberry
Amelanchier bartramiana – Mountain serviceberry
Amelanchier canadensis – Eastern serviceberry
Amelanchier laevis – Allegheny serviceberry
Amelanchier. x grandiflora, often a  A. canadensis and A. laevis hybrid

 

Amelanchier flower

As an ornamental landscape tree serviceberry is a great native alternative to Bradford (Callery) pear or sterile, non-fruiting Japanese cherry. It is an easy to grow, attractive plant which can be a valuable addition to a landscape design and wildlife garden at the same time. Use it in a tailored landscape as an accent tree or plant in an informal area. In spring it serviceberry covered with small, white flowers that carry a light fragrance….which beats the crud out of the fanny smell of Bradford pear. Later a large limb will break off a pear for no reason and crush something important just to add insult to the previous olfactory injury….but I digress. Back to serviceberry.

 

serviceberry

Amelanchier. x grandiflora

Summer brings finely-toothed, medium size oval leaves in a deep green color (Amelanchier. x grandiflora). The dark green color combined with overall rounded, graceful shape of the tree can be used to create a beautiful contrast with lighter leaved shrub Callicarpa americana, under planted with native ninebark cultivars in wine colors or surrounded by tall, colorful perennials.

 

Amelanchier alnifolia

smaller leaved Amelanchier alnifolia

And then come the berries which range from pink to blue to blue black. The fruit is edible to humans and grown as a food crop but in a backyard, good luck getting them before the birds clean you out. Serviceberries are a favorite and the birds will eat them as soon as the ripen. Robins, catbirds and cedar waxwings are a few that will demolish the crop in no time so there is no mess from falling berries.

 

serviceberry fall color

Fall color on Serviceberry is showstopping, particularly with the more dependable cultivars such as ‘Autumn Brilliance’, ‘Regents’ and ‘Princess Diana’. During the autumn months, serviceberry shines as an ornamental tree. Color is usually yellow to red and LOUD. The above photo is from ‘Autumn Brilliance’. Let me just rave about the color on ‘Autumn Brilliance’. It rocks. In Georgia we aren’t known for the palette of more northern zones so this plant is a gem for me.

Amelanchier can range from 15′ – 40′ in height and are a fairly easy tree to grow. They will do well in full sun but are shade tolerant as well. Water requirements are medium, as with most trees, water well when young and it will develop deeper roots, allowing for a higher level of drought tolerance as it matures. On it’s own, serviceberry will develop a deep, spreading root system unlike a shallow rooted Bradford which will come up through a lawn. Serviceberry prefers well drained, acid soils but are tolerant of many conditions.

Pollination is a bit confusing. I have read in many places that the flowers attract bees and butteries, but honestly I am not so sure about that. To the best of my knowledge serviceberry is midge pollinated which has been my personal experience. I have also read that they are self pollinating, and at the same time heard that two species are required for pollination. Anyone please feel free to step in and offer an opinion.

For me serviceberry has proven to be fairly disease free. They are known to be prone to leaf spot and cedar apple rust however I have not had this issue with the exception of some minor damage in fall. It wasn’t noticeable through the BRIGHT color unless you were looking. The one problem I have had with this plant is that if you wish to tree form it, during the first few seasons you really need to convince it to become a tree and stay on the new growth at the base. Some serviceberry will want to form a thicket and send up suckers, so if you prefer a tree, look into which one to plant prior to purchasing.

Serviceberry Amelanchier should not be difficult to find within the nursery trade with ‘Autumn Brilliance’ and ‘Princess Diana’ being the most readily available. If I had to choose between the two, I would take both. Probably two of each if I can find space between my viburnums. If you want to have a bird garden, plant serviceberry, serviceberry and more serviceberry. And get rid of that foul smelling Bradford pear.

© 2012, Karyl Seppala. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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Comments

    • says

      No problem highlighting this one. It’s a good tree. Hopefully more will be used in residential landscape designs. This is one of those overlooked, pretty, low maintenance trees homeowners would love if they knew about it.
      Karyl Seppala recently posted..Black Carpenter Bee

  1. says

    I have a young Serviceberry and hope next year it will really begin to take off … it’s beautiful. Once again I applaud my village for planting Serviceberry trees street side!
    thevioletfern recently posted..Soundscapes

    • says

      A nurseryman told me recently that they take a few year to berry, I do not know how true this is. I have always had so many of them that I didn’t notice age vs berries. This year I have first year plants and they flowered but no berries – here’s to both of us hoping for next years growth!
      Karyl Seppala recently posted..Black Carpenter Bee

    • says

      haha! I feel your pain. I had a collection of the ‘Royal Family’ serviceberry which I had to mail order – I think they were 2′ tall for three years. The berries taste like blueberries IMO. The kids have good taste. :)
      Karyl Seppala recently posted..Black Carpenter Bee

  2. Kelvin Boyle says

    We have four nice Serviceberries in our garden. Three are being trained as accent trees and one is now a multi-stemmed bush. They are the first hard-scape plants to bloom in the Spring, which is certainly a welcomed sight. You know the berries are ripe when the bush vibrates and the Cardinals simply hang with their beaks holding onto the the berries on the trees. Our fourth Serviceberry is Amelanchier Interior which, I understand, is in taxonomic limbo. That doesn’t bother me or the birds. It is a strong plant with excellent fruit set. To all those growing Serviceberry, I bid you welcome and simply enjoy the Amelanchiers. (Zone 5, Northern Illinois)

    • says

      ‘Autumn Brilliance’ is a good pick. Love mine. I also have two new plantings of this and drought so am having to water a lot. Arrgh. My goal is always to encourage the novice or average non-gardening homeowner to plant a native over an easier to find alien, hopefully highlighting some easy care natives helps.
      Karyl Seppala recently posted..Black Carpenter Bee

    • veronika says

      So in the case of serviceberry the cultivar is of the same wildlife value as the species? It’s sometimes so confusing because the cultivar often does not have the same attraction factor.

      • says

        I have cultivars and species. The birds wipe out the berries of the cultivars and I can not imagine that the nutritional value is different. The cultivars produce more berries and have a stable fall color. Other than that, I can not tell the difference as far as birds preferring one over the other. The flowers on my cultivars (so far) have not been sterile. The issue of sterile has been the primary disappointment in native cultivars for me.
        Karyl Seppala recently posted..Black Carpenter Bee

  3. says

    Nice article. I’m jealous. While serviceberry is native to Florida, it is only indicated in the panhandle region. I guess the central florida heat is too much for this beauty. I’ll just have to live through your story and photos…..as I turn a bit green. :)
    Loret recently posted..Rockin and Rolling Caterpillar Style

  4. says

    What a beautiful tree. Your images make it look amazing. I am a fan too. Waysides Trees (of South Tropical Florida) also recommends several others.

    But we should also concentrate on other insects like Bees. It is said that if bees died out, so will the humans because so much of what we eat ultimately relies on pollination by bees.

  5. Aimee says

    Loved your article and couldn’t agree more! Serviceberry is my favorite tree/shrub and I have 4 on my 1/3 acre lot in central Wisconsin. I have two Autumn Brilliance in multi-trunk tree form and two downy serviceberry in large shrub form. They are all wonderful but I’ve noticed in my area the downy tends to have vibrant orange foliage in the fall while my Autumn Brilliance trees are more bright red. I intend to plant a Regent later this year in the hopes that I might be able to net it and keep a few berries for myself. I purposely planted my others to attract birds but want to try to keep a little of the delicious berries for myself. :)

  6. Berries in, berries out? says

    I have a problem with stains on outdoor furniture, terraces, cars, paths and porches from birds eating berries from a neighbor’s tree, NOT a serviceberry. a serviceberry looks so perfect, and I wonder if anyone has any experience with significant mess during the fruiting season.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Shadbush/Serviceberry/Shadblow (Amelanchier spp.) – one of our earliest blooming native shrubs (blooming in April), the fruits ripen early in the summer and like blueberries, you’ll have to beat the birds to the berries because they are simply delicious. William Cullina writes that the Cree Native Americans mixed serviceberries with buffalo fat to form “pemmican”, which nourished them through long Canadian winters.* […]

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