Amelanchier

Amelanchier

Amelanchier, also known as shadbush, serviceberry, sarvisberry, juneberry, Saskatoon, shadblow, shadwood, sugarplum, and wild-plum, is a genus of about 20 species of shrubs and small deciduous trees in the Rosaceae (Rose family).

The genus is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, growing primarily in early successional habitats. It is most diverse taxonomically in North America, especially in the northern United States and southern Canada, and is native to every state of the United States except Hawaii. Two species also occur in Asia, and one in Europe. These plants are valued horticulturally, and their fruits are important to wildlife. The systematics (taxonomy) of shadbushes has long perplexed botanists, horticulturalists, and others, as suggested by the range in number of species recognized in the genus from 6 to 33 in two recent publications . A major source of complexity comes from the occurrence of apomixis (asexual seed production), polyploidy, and hybridization.

Amelanchier species grow to 0.2–20 m tall, arborecent or suckering and forming loose colonies or dense clumps to single-stemmed. The bark is gray or less often brown, smooth or fissuring in older trees. The leaves are deciduous, cauline, alternate, simple, lanceolate to elliptic to orbiculate, 0.5–10 x 0.5–5.5 cm, thin to coriaceous, with surfaces abaxially glabrous or densely tomentose at flowering, abaxially glabrous or more or less hairy at maturity. The inflorescences are terminal, with 1–20 flowers, erect or drooping, either in clusters of one to four flowers, or in racemes with 4–20 flowers. The flowers have five white (rarely somewhat pink, yellow, or streaked with red), linear to orbiculate petals, 2.6–25 mm long, occasionally andropetalous (bearing apical microsporangia adaxially; only known in this genus in A. nantucketensis). The flowers appear in early spring, "when the shad run" according to tradition (leading to names such as "shadbush"). The fruit is a berry-like pome, red to purple to nearly black at maturity, 5–15 mm diameter, insipid to delectably sweet, maturing in summer.

Selected species

For North American species, the taxonomy follows the forthcoming Flora of North America; for Asian species the Flora of China; and for European species the Flora Europaea.

Several natural hybrids also exist.

Etymology

The origin of the generic name Amelanchier is probably derived from the Provençal name of the European Amelanchier ovalis. The name serviceberry comes from the similarity of the fruit to the related European Sorbus. A widespread folk etymology states that the plant's flowering time signaled to early American pioneers that the ground had thawed enough in spring for the burial of the winter's dead. Juneberry refers to the fruits of certain species becoming ripe in June. The name Saskatoon originated from a Cree Native American noun misâskwatômina (misāskwatōmina, misaaskwatoomina) for Amelanchier alnifolia. The city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is named after this plant.

Ecology

Amelanchier are preferred browse for deer and rabbits, and heavy browsing pressure can suppress natural regeneration. Caterpillars of Lepidoptera such as Brimstone Moth, Brown-tail, Grey Dagger, Mottled Umber, Rough Prominent, The Satellite, Winter Moth, Limenitis arthemis and other herbivorous insects also have a taste for serviceberry. Many insects and diseases that attack orchard trees also affect this genus, in particular trunk borers and Gymnosporangium rust. In years when late flowers overlap those of wild roses and brambles, bees may spread bacterial fireblight.

Uses and cultivation

The fruit of several species are excellent to eat raw, tasting like a slightly nutty blueberry, though their popularity with birds makes harvesting difficult. Fruit is harvested locally for pies and jams. The saskatoon berry is harvested commercially. The Native American food pemmican was flavored by shadbush fruits in combination with fat and dried meats, and the stems were made into arrow shafts.

Several species are very popular ornamental shrubs, grown for their flowers, bark, and fall color. All need similar conditions to grow well, requiring good drainage, air circulation (to discourage leaf diseases), watering during drought and acceptable soil. Note that species names are often used interchangeably in the nursery trade. Many A. arborea plants that are offered for sale are actually hybrids, or entirely different species.

The wood is brown, hard, close-grained, and heavy. The heartwood is reddish-brown, and the sapwood is lighter in color. It can be used for tool handles and fishing rods.

Propagation is by seed, divisions and grafting. Serviceberries graft so readily that grafts with other genera, such as Crataegus and Sorbus, are often successful.

George Washington planted specimens on the grounds of Mount Vernon.

A taxon commonly cited as Amelanchier "lamarckii" is very widely cultivated and naturalized in Europe, where it was introduced in the 17th century; it is known to be of North American origin, probably from eastern Canada. It is not currently known to occur in the wild, and is probably of hybrid origin between A. laevis and either A. arborea or A. canadensis; it is apomictic and breeds true from seed.

References

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