Serviceberries are shrubs or small trees that offer homeowners multiple seasons of interest.  Their bright white flowers are one of the first harbingers of

picture of serviceberry in bloom at ISU campus
Serviceberry in bloom at Iowa State University (photo by Cindy Haynes)

 spring.  The blueberry-like fruit are devoured by birds and wildlife in summer.  And their brilliant and reliable yellow, orange, and/or red leaves in fall are worth the wait. 

Serviceberry is one of many common names of the genus Amelanchier.  Some Amelanchier species are called Juneberry because the edible blueberry-like fruit ripens in June.  Some species are called Shadbush or Shadblow because they bloom around the same time that American shad (type of fish) spawn along the Atlantic coast.  There are common names that are confined to specific regions as well.  The common name Saskatoon refers to the town by the same name in southern Saskatchewan, where a few species are native.  The common name Chuckley pear appears to be exclusive to Newfoundland for all species in the area.  

The common name of serviceberry seems to be more widespread and seems to have a more controversial origin.  Some suspect that the name refers to the plants tendency to bloom in early spring -  just as the ground has thawed.  Therefore, early settlers knew they could start funeral or burial services and bury their dead. Others suggest that European settlers thought the plant reminded them of the early blooming Sorbus flowers back home, and over the years, the name was inadvertently changed from Sorbus to Sarvis to Service.


There are over 30 species of Amelanchier native to North America.  Several species of Amelanchier are native to Iowa and parts of the Midwest.  Almost all of the species listed below are native to large areas of the northern US, including the Midwest. It can be hard to distinguish between some species, and many freely hybridize.  Regardless, all species bloom early in the spring.  All produce edible berries in summer (often starting in June), and all species tend to have colorful fall foliage. 

Species differences in height, ability to spread, and cultivars are listed in the table below.

Common NameScientific Name



Native RangeCommentsNotable Cultivars
Saskatoon or Dwarf ShadbushAmelanchier alnifolia3-15Western North America, including IowaMulti-stem shrub that spreads by rhizomes; erect flower clustersMany cultivars selected for fruit quality including ‘Northline’, ‘Pembina’, ‘Thiessen’, ‘Smokey’, and ‘Regent’
Shadbush or Downy ServiceberryAmelanchier arborea15-25Eastern North America, including IowaNodding flower clusters; leaves are fuzzy as they emerge in spring 
Canadian ServiceberryAmelanchier canadensis15-20Eastern North AmericaSuckering shrub with erect flowers clusters; wooly new leaves that become hairless; striped, silver-gray bark‘Spring Glory’ and ‘Tradition’; ‘Rainbow Pillar’ is noted for upright habit
Apple ServiceberryAmelanchier × grandiflora15-20HybridHybrid of A. arborea and A. laevis; largest flowers (sometimes pale pink)’Autumn Brilliance’ is noted for orange- red fall color; ‘Princess Diana’ is noted for widespread habit, abundant fruit and red fall color; ‘Rubescens’ – is noted for pinkish flowers
Low ServiceberryAmelanchier humilis5-6Eastern North America, including IowaStrongly rhizomatous/suckering habit; erect white flower clusters 
Wiegand’s shadbushAmelanchier interior5-10Eastern North America, including IowaHairy, reddish young leaves; nodding white flower clusters; potentially a naturally occurring hybrid 
Smooth/Alleghany ServiceberryAmelanchier laevis15-30Eastern North America, including IowaNodding flower clusters; bronzy-purple new leaves that fade to green in summer; smooth, striped bark‘Snowcloud’ – cultivar with a columnar shape
Roundleaf or Red twig Serviceberry or SaskatoonAmelanchier sanguinea3-8Eastern North America, including IowaNoted for its red twigs and fragrant white flower clusters 
Thicket shadbushAmelanchier stolonifera (syn A. spicata)3-5Eastern North America, including IowaStrongly rhizomatous/suckering habit; prefers acidic soils 
JuneberryAmelanchier lamarckii15-25Eastern North AmericaNodding clusters of white flowers; potentially a naturally occurring hybrid between A. laevis and either A. canadensis or A. arboreta. 

Growing Serviceberries

Serviceberries are native along woodland edges or open areas.  Generally, they perform best in sites with full sun or part sun and moist, well-drained soils. Downy serviceberry or shadbush will tolerate more moist soils and some pollution. Allegheny serviceberry and Low serviceberry are noted for tolerating drier, rocky soils.  The more sun they receive, the more flowers in the spring and, ultimately, the more fruit production in summer.  Several hours of direct sun each day will also ensure more vibrant orange and red fall foliage colors. 

Since many species are smaller ornamental trees, they work well planted in home landscapes. Trees can be purchased with a single trunk or multiple trunks at the base.  The single trunk types work well as a specimen tree underplanted with perennial or annual flowers.  The multi-stem types work well as screens or backdrops for other smaller shrubs or perennials. 

Some serviceberries will sucker and spread.  Prune these suckers at the base, just below the surface of the soil.  Removal of these suckers during the dormant season and as needed during the growing season will allow more light to reach the plant base and ensure good airflow (which will limit foliar diseases).  

Harvesting Fruit

close up picture of serviceberry ripe fruit
Ripe serviceberry fruit (photo by Cindy Haynes)


The berries can be harvested as they darken from burgundy to blue-black.  They will continue to ripen slightly after harvest.  The darker the color, the sweeter the berries taste. Often, these sweetest berries are taken quickly by birds and chipmunks. 

Pests and Diseases

While many gardeners consider birds and chipmunks pests during the summer as the fruit ripens, they rarely do serious damage to plants.  In fact, there are few insect pests of serviceberries.  Spider mites and aphids can cause some foliar damage (especially during dry years).  This damage tends to be mostly cosmetic and rarely warrants treatment. 

Serviceberries are vulnerable, however, to several diseases common to rose family members, like apple and pear trees.  Fireblight, a bacterial disease, is common with serviceberries in parts of the US. As leaves and fruit emerge, they turn black, shrivel, and die.  The ends of the stems look like they have been blackened or scorched by fire. Fireblight tends to be worse in humid, wet springs and early summers.  Damaged portions can be pruned off in summer. Disinfect pruners with a diluted bleach solution between each cut to prevent spreading the disease.

Several rust diseases can infect serviceberries as well.  Cedar-quince rust, cedar-hawthorn, and cedar-serviceberry rust can cause leaves to wilt, small branches to die, and may produce orange growths on fruit, making them inedible.  Berry spots or leaf spots caused by a fungus known as Entomosporium creates angular spots with a yellow border on leaves and deforms fruits.  Powdery mildew is another fungal disease that looks like a whitish powder/dust on leaves. 

Some foliar diseases can be prevented or reduced with proper plant spacing, pruning to promote good airflow, and avoiding overhead watering.  Sunny sites with good airflow around plants and leaves that do not remain wet for long periods are less likely to have problems with fungal diseases

Even with the potential for minor pest or disease problems – these plants are worth the risk.  Their flowers, fruit, and fall color are revered by all.  Few shrubs or small trees are as reliably beautiful in every season.

More Information

close up picture of serviceberry flower cluster
Close up of serviceberry flower cluster (Photo by Cindy Haynes)


Last reviewed:
June 2024