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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

The fruits of some twenty-five or thirty species of Amelanchier are edible, those of several species being especially juicy, sweet and refreshing. Under the names juneberry, shad-bush, service-berry, sugar-pear and grape-pear, or their equivalents in other languages, the wild fruits are used for food in all parts of the North Temperate Zone. The product of one or another of the species plays an important part in the diet of North American Indians, who make use of the berries both fresh and dried. So, also, juneberries have been a source of food-supply to explorers, prospectors and pioneers, who testify to their value as nourishing esculents and pleasing dessert fruits. Juneberries are as yet little used where they must compete with other fruits, although they have many qualities to commend them for domestication.

The fruit of the juneberry is a small pome or apple, usually with five cells each more or less completely divided into two parts so that there appear to be ten cells. The seeds are small and thin-shelled, varying in number from five to ten. The pomes of some species are no larger than a pea, while in the best strains of other species they attain the size of a small crab-apple. They vary in color from dark red to a purplish blue or black and all have more or less bloom. The fruits resemble somewhat the pomes of the hawthorn, for which they are often mistaken. The juneberry, however, is superior to the more common hawthorn as a food product because the flesh is greater in quantity and is not so dry and mealy, the flavor is sprightlier and the seeds are fewer, smaller and thinner-shelled. The several juneberries are quite as variable in the character of their fruits, either within or between species, as are other members of the rose family to which Amelanchier belongs—sufficiently variable to suggest high potentialities in the domestication of the best of the wild species.

Juneberries differ much in the character of the plants. Some species are dwarf shrubs with many stems, while others are small trees with straight, slender trunks, the largest of which attain a height of 40 feet and a diameter of 8 or 10 inches. All of the species are vigorous and the American juneberries are hardy, at least two of them giving promise of making most desirable domesticated plants in regions too cold for any or but few other fruits. Juneberries are easily transplanted and respond to culture as readily as any other species of the rose family. In the garden, they thrive under the same care as that given the apple or pear. Insects and fungous troubles are not particularly apparent in wild species but it is probable that under artificial conditions juneberries would suffer from about the same insects and fungi that attack other pomes. Birds, especially the robin, take heavy toll and would prove troublesome to cultivated plants. The genus shows wide adaptation to soils and moisture conditions, there being few localities in temperate regions where other fruits are grown upon which some one or several of the juneberries would not thrive.

All of the plants in this genus, whether shrubs or trees, have value as ornamentals. The common juneberry of eastern America is a particularly beautiful plant in early spring, bearing large white flowers in profusion, which are well set off by the opening foliage and bright silky bud-scales and bracts. The trees are attractive ornamentals in fruit though the eastern juneberry is often infertile and sets few or no pomes. Trained as a tree or as a many-stemmed shrub, the several juneberries are all desirable lawn and park ornamentals.

From time to time strains of wild species have been brought under cultivation, some of which have been named and sparingly disseminated by nurserymen. So far all of the cultivated varieties have come from the bush-like species, most of them said to be from A. alnifolia. One of the first named varieties was success, a dwarf strain probably of A. canadensis, introduced by H. E. Van Deman, then of Kansas, about 1878; this variety seems to be no longer cultivated. Several western nurserymen now offer strains of dwarfs under the names Improved Dwarf Juneberry, Dwarf Mountain Juneberry, and Western Huckleberry. So far as their history can be learned, all these named varieties are selected strains from wild plants, no one as yet having set out to breed and improve juneberries. There are many distinct forms in the wild, some of them supposed to be natural hybrids, offering opportunities for selection in the amelioration of the species for the garden. There is no reason to believe that the species will not hybridize as freely as other members of the rose family. All looks to be favorable for the domestication of juneberries,—opportunities awaiting a man to do the work.

Juneberries are readily propagated from seeds and no doubt all would yield to budding, grafting and to the same treatment in the nursery given to apples and pears. Some of the species would, no doubt, vex the souls of cultivators by throwing up many suckers, but in garden culture this could be remedied by working on a non-suckering stock. Juneberries are said to be easily budded on the hawthorn. The suckers are commonly used in propagating the species used as ornamentals. The eleven species described under Amelanchier all have horticultural possibilities well indicated in the descriptions. The species giving greatest promise for their fruits are A. alnifolia, A. laevis, A. sanguinea, A. stolonifera and A. humilis. To these should be added A. canadensis as the most desirable juneberries for ornamentals. U.P. Hedrick.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



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