The serviceberry has always been one of my favorite landscape plants. It has nice fall color, beautiful white flowers and a delicious purple/black fruit. I was completely surprised to learn that serviceberries are being grown commercially for their fruit. Lloyd Hausher with the Alberta Special Crops and Horticulture Research Center in Brooks shared slides of serviceberry orchards with participants of the 1990 Alaska Greenhouse and Nursery Conference.
You may know this fruit by a different name. It has plenty — saskatoon, juneberry, shadblow, sarvisberry. I’ve started calling it Amelanchier to try to keep things simple. There are 2 species indigenous to Alaska. Amelanchier alnifolia which extends from southeast Alaska into the Interior, and A. florida found in Southeast and Southcentral.
- alnifolia is the species being developed for commercial fruit production. Cathy Wright of the Alaska Plant Materials Center and Pat Holloway at the UAF Plant and Animal Science Division have several cultivars planted in trials throughout the railbelt area. There is at least 1 Alaska nursery (wholesale) which is producing potted stock for landscaping.
The first few years after Amelanchier bushes are planted, growth is slow. Plants generally do not produce until they are 3-4 years old with mature yields expected after 6- 7 years. Once plants reach 8-10 years, a routine pruning program should be established to ensure continued production of young growth.
Most Amelanchiers I’ve seen in the Anchorage area range from 3 to 5 feet in height, but I have seen a couple of mature plants at 18-20 feet. One is located on Elmendorf AFB.
At the June NAFEX meeting in Anchorage, there were several opinions on whether Amelanchiers are tasty. I contend they make fabulous pie and wonderful jelly.