Common Serviceberry (Arborea)

The Common Serviceberry (Arborea) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Common Serviceberry (Arborea) has dark green foliage and inconspicuous white flowers, with a moderate amount of conspicuous purple fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Common Serviceberry (Arborea) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a slow growth rate. At maturity, the typical Common Serviceberry (Arborea) will reach up to 35 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 25 feet.

The Common Serviceberry (Arborea) is usually not commercially available except under contract. It can be propagated by bare root, container, cuttings, seed. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -33°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Trees of downy serviceberry are generally not large enough for sawtimber but they have been used for pulpwood. The wood is extremely heavy and hard and is occasionally made into tool handles. Cree Indians prized it for making arrows.

At least 40 bird species (for example, mockingbirds, cardinals, cedar waxwings, towhees, Baltimore orioles) eat the fruit of Amelanchier species. Mammals that either eat the fruit or browse the twigs and leaves of downy serviceberry include squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, mice, voles, foxes, black bears, deer, and elk. The fruits taste similar to blueberry – they are eaten fresh or cooked in pastries or puddings.

The trees are used as ornamentals and many cultivars have been selected for variation in growth habit, flower size and color, and leaf color. The fall foliage blends orange and gold with red and green. It grows in partial shade to full sun, preferring moist but well-drained soil but will also grow in dry sites.

General Characteristics

Rose Family (Rosaceae). Native shrubs or small trees to 10 meters tall, with a narrow, rounded crown, the twigs often red-brown to purplish, becoming gray; bark smooth, grayish, striped with vertical fissures and very ornamental. Leaves: deciduous, alternate, simple, oval to oblong, 5-13 cm long, glabrous above, pubescent and paler beneath, the base rounded or heart-shaped, acute or acuminate at the tip, with finely toothed margins. Flowers: 3-15 in elongate clusters at the branch tips, before the leaves appear; petals 5, white, 10-14 mm long and strap-like. Fruits 6-12 mm wide, on long stalks, red-purple at maturity; seed 5-10 per fruit. The common name: in some regions, the flowers are gathered for church services, hence serviceberry or sarvis-berry; or “service” from “sarvis,” in turn a modification of the older name “Sorbus,” a closely related genus.

Variation within the species: Three varieties have been recognized: var. alabamensis (Britt.) G.N. Jones; var. arborea; and var. austromontana (Ashe) Ahles.

Required Growing Conditions

Downy serviceberry is widespread in the eastern US and southeastern Canada (New Brunswick and southern Newfoundland to Quebec and Ontario); south to the northern tip of the Florida Panhandle and west to Alabama, southern Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas (rare), Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota.

Adaptation Downy serviceberry grows in a variety of habitats – swampy lowlands, dry woods, sandy bluffs, rocky ridges, forest edges, and open woodlands and fields. It is a late successional to climax species in mixed-hardwood forests of the central U.S., commonly as an understory species. In the southern Appalachians, downy serviceberry grows in red spruce-Fraser fir forests at elevations of 1500-2000 meters with yellow birch, mountain ash, elderberry, and hobblebush. Flowering (March-)April-May, among the first of the early spring trees and shrubs to bloom; fruiting June-August.

Cultivation and Care

Downy serviceberry regenerates mainly by seed, but it also sprouts from the roots. Birds and mammals disperse seeds; scarification of the seeds after ingestion by birds is important for germination. Seeds can be sown after 2-6 months of cold stratification, but they will not usually germinate until after the second spring.

General Upkeep and Control

Fire top-kills downy serviceberry but it can sprout from root crowns and stumps following fire. A significant portion of the post-fir reestablishment is from seed dispersed from off-site by birds and mammals. Following wildfire in a spruce-fir forest of Appalachia, downy serviceberry was present in stands after 30 years but was less than 1% of the total basal area. Gypsy moth larvae (Lymantria dispar) feed selectively on downy serviceberry.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Slow
General Type Tree, Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Contracting Only
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Spring
Displays Fall Colors Yes
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 35
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color White
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Summer
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Cuttings, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -33
Soil Depth for Roots 20
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5.5–7.5 pH
Precipitation Range 28–28 inches/yr
Planting Density 700–1700 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 20
Minimum Frost-Free Days 120 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Low
CaCO3 Tolerance None
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Medium
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA