Serviceberry Tree

The serviceberry tree is native to North America, although it is one of those that fall into the “is it a tree or a bush?’ category. Usually the serviceberry is considered a small tree that can grow up to forty feet tall with a span across that is around 15-20 feet. However, with 45 varieties, you can find one just the right size no matter which you prefer. It is also known by such names as juneberry, Saskatoon berry, shadbush or shadblow. It is in the rosaceae family.

The serviceberry tree welcomes spring with a multitude of beautiful clusters of white flowers. In the fall the tree also turns with foliage from yellow to red.  Bluish-black berries are produced on the plant and are edible for both humans, birds and animals. The fruit is actually very much like a blueberry and early settlers used the berries for jams and pies. It take approximately two years for a tree to produce berries.

The serviceberry tree grows well in zones 4 through 7. It likes soil that is moist, but well-drained. It doesn’t do well in extremely dry conditions and may need to be watered during a drought. Both full sunlight or partial shade are fine. When you plant a serviceberry tree make sure to make a hole that is 5-6 times wider than the ball of roots as it likes to spread out. The roots, however are not invasive and if you have a small yard you don’t need to worry about planting close-by.

The bark of a serviceberry tree is thin and can easily be damaged, so care needs to be taken if mowing near the tree. Many times the serviceberry has multiple trunks but you can prune them to grow with a single trunk.

There are a variety of pests and diseases that can attack this type of tree. Cambium miners can cause lines in the tree bark but are not damaging to the tree itself. Leaf miners will mine the leaves. Of particular concern are two insects that attack the leaves. One forms cocoons on the underside of the leaves and scrapes off the tissue so that the leaves appear to have windows. The other is the pear sawfly whose larvae attack the leaves.  These will appear to be greenish-black. Skeletonized leaves will die and drop off. Also watch out for spider mites and aphids.

A common plant disease know as witches broom affects serviceberry trees. It attacks on the ends of the branches where there is new growth, forming a cluster of stems which is the “broom” part.  At the same time you may notice black fungus on the undersides of the leaves. Prune off the brooms and the tree will survive.