Berries in all stages of ripening appear on serviceberry shrubs in June

When people plant shrubs in their landscapes, they typically choose based on appearance, looking for something with colorful flowers, unique leaves, or interesting bark. Native shrubs, though, are multitaskers because, in addition to looking beautiful, they provide some valuable services.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.) is a single trunk small tree or a multistemmed shrub, growing from 4-25 feet tall. Not too picky about its needs, serviceberry prefers full sun but will grow in partial shade, and it likes dry to moist soils that are slightly acidic with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0. Serviceberry spreads 4-15 feet wide when given the space. It naturally grows in forest understory, especially along the edges of woods or streams but can also be planted in urban yards.


Showy white flowers and fresh green leaves make serviceberry a beautiful addition to any landscape

Serviceberry pleases landowners all year long. Furry buds open in springtime with showy white flowers in loose clusters. Five petals surround both stamens and pistils on the perfect flowers, attracting early pollinators—miner bees, sweat bees, and spring azure butterflies—to the abundant nectar and pollen. After the shrub blossoms, the alternate simple leaves open, emerging folded in half along the mid-vein. At 1-3 inches long, the leaves start out purple-colored and then become green. They turn reddish-orange in autumn.

The seed clusters of common ninebark hang on through winter

Small apple-like berries appear in June, hence the shrub’s common name, Juneberry. The fresh green berries change to red and finally mature when dark blue or purple. Berries ripen over several days so that all stages of fruit may coexist on branches, providing colorful interest and about a three weeks’ supply of food for wildlife. Birds that feast on these fruits include robins, cedar waxwings, gray catbirds, hermit thrushes, and Baltimore orioles. Mammals such as chipmunks, foxes, red squirrels, deer, and black bears will eat the fruits, bark, and twigs. Smooth gray bark on the stems offers an attractive winter scene with snow. People, too, can eat the fresh fruits or use them to make pies, jams, jellies, or juice.

Ecosystem benefits we receive from this plant include erosion control, oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange, food and shelter for insect herbivores, and nesting habitats for birds.