What’s Growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens: Serviceberry
By Melanie Priesnitz, Conservation Horticulturist
The fruit of the Acadian Forest is starting to ripen much to the delight of the creatures who call the region home. One of the first wild berries enjoyed by birds and humans alike are that of the serviceberry. There are a variety of shrubs and small trees referred to as serviceberries. They are in the Rose family (Roseaceae) and are in the genus Amelanchier. There are ten or so species native to Nova Scotia. They can be tricky to identify and classify as they hybridize readily so botanists don’t always agree on the number of species that exist!
Amelanchier species go by many common names including: serviceberry, shadbush, juneberry, shadwood, chuckleberry, wild pear, wild plum, and saskatoonberry just to name a few! There are many theories on where the various common names came from. One that I quite like is that Amelanchier canadensis is known as shadbush because they blossom when the shad fish run. Some reports indicate that the name serviceberry came from the fact that the flowers bloom at the time of year when the Appalachian mountains became passable, thus allowing preachers to resume church services for the season. One can only guess where the name chuckleberry came from!
The word for serviceberry in Mi’kmaq is glamuejmnaqsi. Canada’s First Peoples used serviceberry fruit for food and medicine, and they use the wood for making fishing rods, arrow shafts, and other items.
These beautiful shrubs are gaining interest in the horticulture world due to their showy, early white spring blossoms, vibrant fall colour, and delicious berries. The fruit is high in vitamin C, iron, copper, and calcium and is great for eating fresh off the plant or processing into jams and jellies, pie, and wine. Some of the amelanchier species in Nova Scotia include: mountain serviceberry, dwarf serviceberry, St. Lawrence serviceberry, and smooth serviceberry. A great source for learning about the many serviceberries and other native plants is the Evergreen Native Plant database found at nativeplants.evergreen.ca. Visit the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens to see the serviceberry in fruit this month, we’re open everyday and free to the public.
Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens