Amelanchier arborea (Downy Serviceberry)
|Also known as:||Downy Shadbush, Common Serviceberry|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; average to dry soil; forest understory, woodland edges, shrubby fields and meadows, windbreaks, roadsides|
|Bloom season:||April - May|
|Plant height:||15 to 25 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Upright racemes 2½ to 3½ inches tall with 5 to 12 white flowers at tips of branch twigs, emerging just before or with the leaves in early spring. Flowers are about 1 inch across with 5 narrowly-oblong petals. In the center are 18 to 20 creamy-yellow tipped stamens surrounding green, hairless ovary with a long, green 5-parted style at the summit.
The 5 sepals are narrowly triangular, ¼ to about 1/3 as long as the petals, woolly hairy on the inner surface, becoming strongly reflexed (downward pointing) soon after flowering. Flower stalks are hairy when young becoming smooth in fruit, ¼ to 1 inch long at flowering, those lower on the raceme elongating in fruit.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are alternate, 1½ to 3 inches long, 1 to 2 inches wide, egg-shaped to inversely egg-shaped, widest above or below the middle, rounded to somewhat heart-shaped at the base, pointed at the tip, sometimes abruptly so. Edges are finely toothed with 22 to 45 teeth per side on larger leaves. At flowering time, leaves are typically bronze-tinged, folded and half or less their mature size, with the upper surface hairless to sparsely hairy and the lower densely woolly hairy. Later, leaves become green and flat, with the upper surface smooth and the lower often hairy just along the midrib but may retain a few hairs on the surface. Leaf stalks are hairy and up to 1 inch long.
Young twigs are greenish brown, initially hairless to sparsely hairy, more densely hairy immediately below the bud, turning reddish brown with scattered whitish lenticels (pores) and completely smooth the 2nd year. Buds are greenish to red-brown, lance-elliptic, sharply pointed at the tip, with dense cobwebby hairs mostly around bud scale edges.
Mature bark is pale gray, smooth except for shallow fissures. Stems are multiple from the base, erect, up to 3+ inches in diameter on larger stems, with a crown typically taller than wide. Plants are not colony-forming or root-suckering.
Fruit is berry-like, globe-shaped, 1/3 to ½ inch diameter, turning deep reddish purple to blackish at maturity.
Serviceberries (other common names are Shadbush or Juneberry) are a large group of small trees or shrubs that dot our woodlands and meadows with sprays of white flowers, just as other trees begin to leaf out in early spring. Most of them inhabit the eastern forests of North America with Minnesota on the westernmost edge of the range, and different species are often growing in close association. They are a perplexing group to identify with few distinct characteristics for any given species. Hybridization between species is frequent with diverging and integrating forms common. Within a species, traits like hairiness and leaf shapes are variable and leaf forms often differ within a single individual, depending on what part of the branches they are found. Specific site conditions like sunlight, soil type and moisture levels can also have great influence. Because some characteristics like leaf hairs can change over the season, early and late observations may be necessary for correct identification.
Downy Serviceberry is relatively uncommon in Minnesota, primarily limited to our easternmost counties along the Wisconsin and Canadian borders. The general growth and leaf form is similar to both Inland Serviceberry (A. interior) and Smooth Serviceberry (A. laevis). But A. arborea can be distinguished by the combination of a hairless ovary (unlike A. interior) and young leaves with densely hairy undersides (unlike A. laevis). The top of the ovary can be seen in flower or in fruit and A. laevis is the only other Serviceberry currently known to be in Minnesota that has a hairless ovary. The hybrid cultivars sold in the nursery industry “Autumn Briliance”, and “Princess Diana” are known hybrids between A. arborea and A. laevis that are designated as A. x grandiflora. While the fruit of all Serviceberries are quite similar in appearance and many noted for their sweet, blueberry-like flavor, the fruit of Downy Serviceberry is dry and tasteless.
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- Downy Serviceberry shrub
- Downy Serviceberry tree
- stems are clumped
- leaves are hairy, bronze-tinged and folded at flowering time
- late-season leaves, in fall color ©Amos Oliver Doyle
- ovaries are hairless
- a pollinator, Andrena milwaukeensis
Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Chisago County. Amelanchier arborea fall leaves By Amos Oliver Doyle (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons, used under CC BY-SA 3.0. Other photos courtesy Heather Holm.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?