smooth serviceberry, Amelanchier laevis
Amelanchier is an old French name for snowy-mespilus (Amelanchier ovalis); laevis is Latin for “smooth.”
Smooth serviceberry is from the lack of hairs on the leaves and flower stalks, while serviceberry refers to the Appalachian tradition of holding memorial services for the dead that coincided with the blooming of the serviceberries. Serviceberry may be a derivation of the word ‘sarvisberry’ for the resemblance of the fruits to the sarvis tree or European mountain ash fruits. Another common name for the species is Allegheny serviceberry.
NATIVE RANGE AND HABITAT
Smooth serviceberry is native from Newfoundland to Georgia and Alabama, west to Michigan and Kansas. In Kentucky, it occurs infrequently in dry to wet woodlands of slopes, plateaus, and bottoms in the Appalachian and Interior Low Plateaus.
The Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission does not rank smooth serviceberry as a plant of conservation concern.
Growth Habit and Form
Smooth serviceberry is a deciduous, multi-stemmed (2-3 trunks) large shrub or small tree with a rounded crown of many small branches. Plants will grow 15 to 25 feet in height with an equal spread. The tree is short-lived and has a rapid growth rate.
Leaves are simple, alternate, and 1- to 3- inches long. New growth emerges as bronze purple. The fall color is yellow to red.
White flowers occur in fleecy clusters (panicles) up to 4 inches long.
The fruit is edible, sweet, 3/8 inch across and rich purple-black at maturity.
Young bark is reddish brown. The bark of older trees is dull grayish brown. Bark is thin and easily damaged from mechanical impact.
Wild and Cultivated Varieties
The smooth serviceberry grows in shade or partial shade as an understory tree. It is well adapted for planting beneath power lines due to its small size. Smooth serviceberry is best used in a naturalistic planting and to attract wildlife. It can be planted singly as a specimen or in groupings. The main ornamental feature is the white flowers borne in drooping clusters in mid spring.
Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8(9).
Cultivation and Propagation Information
Serviceberries are extremely adaptable to a variety of sites and soils. Growth is best in full sun to light shade and moist, well-drained, acid soils. Transplant balled and burlapped or container grown plants into moist, well-drained, acid soil. Plants can be propagated by sowing seed that have undergone cold stratification, stored 90 to 120 days at 41 degrees F in moist medium.
Diseases and Insects
Downy serviceberry is susceptible to rusts, blights, powdery mildew, leaf minors, leaf spot, borers and scale.
Many birds and animals are extremely fond of the fruits.
Smooth serviceberry can be trained to grow with a single trunk. Plants needs little pruning to develop a strong structure.
TRADITIONAL AND MODERN USES
The American Indians preferred the fruits.