Common serviceberry

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Common serviceberry
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Kingdom: Plantae
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Order: Rosales
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Family: Rosaceae
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Genus: Amelanchier
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Species: A. arborea
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Binomial name
Amelanchier arborea
(F.Michx.) Fernald
Trinomial name
Type Species

The Common Serviceberry or Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea; syn. Mespilus arborea F. Michx.), is native to eastern North America from the Gulf Coast north to Thunder Bay in Ontario and Lake St. John in Quebec, and west to Texas and Minnesota.

It is usually an understory tree or large shrub, but occasionally reaches into the forest canopy. It can grow up to 20 m tall when pressured by competitors, but it usually stays much smaller, typically 5-12 m tall, with a trunk up to 15 cm diameter (rarely to 40 cm diameter). The bark is smooth and gray.

The buds are 10-12 mm long and slender with a sharp tip, and usually more than two scales visible. The leaves are ovate or elliptical, 4-8 cm (rarely 10 cm) long and 2.5-4 cm wide, with pointed tips and finely serrated margins. A characteristic useful for identification is that the young leaves emerge downy on the underside. It is not unusual for many leaves to be damaged by rust diseases. The fall color is variable, from orange-yellow to pinkish or reddish.

It has perfect flowers (so the plant is monoecious) that are 15-25 mm diameter, with 5 petals, emerging during budbreak in early spring. The petals are clear white, rarely light pink, and the stamens and style greenish-yellow. They are produced on pendulous racemes 4-8 cm long with 4-10 flowers on each raceme. The flowers are larger than other serviceberrys, and is pollinated by bees.

The fruit is a reddish-purple pome 1 cm in diameter, resembling a small apple in shape. They ripen in summer and are very popular with birds. The fruit is drier than some other serviceberries, and it is harvested locally for pies and jams; they were also used by Native Americans to make bread.

There are three varieties:

  • Amelanchier arborea var. arborea. Throughout the range of the species.
  • Amelanchier arborea var. alabamensis. Southeastern United States.
  • Amelanchier arborea var. austromontana. Southeastern United States.

It also commonly hybridizes with other species of Amelanchier, and identification can be very difficult as a result.


This species tolerates low light levels, but is at its best in full sun. It requires good drainage and air circulation and should be watered during drought. It is often confused with other species in the nursery trade. Propagation is by seed, divisions and grafting.


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