Allegheny Serviceberry

In November, cold weather starts to set in and plants move to their dormant state. It is hard to be excited about plant life in winter, but there are plenty of interesting aspects to the winter landscape. Grasses and perennials, if left overwinter, provide dimension and interest to our landscape. And, there are plants that still have color in their leaves in late fall, including Serviceberry.

Allegheny Serviceberry, Amelanchier laevis, is a small tree or large shrub that grows up to 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide. It is often grown as a multi-stemmed tree. Serviceberry leaves are arranged alternately on the stem and are oblong to ovate shaped with fine teeth along the edges. The leaves emerge purple turning green as they mature and are smooth. The species name, laevis, means smooth. Allegheny Serviceberry turns orange to red in fall. Serviceberry blooms in spring with fragrant, 5-petaled, white flowers that are found in drooping clusters throughout the tree. The flower petals fall before the leaves appear. Serviceberry plants produce an edible, small, red berry that turns purple-black at maturity in June. The berries are described as very sweet and are loved by birds.

Allegheny serviceberry flowering, T. David Sydnor, Ohio State, bugwood
Allegheny Serviceberry in bloom, Photo from T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University,

Allegheny Serviceberry is a good tree for many locations on your acreage or in your landscape.  It does well as an understory tree because it grows best in full sun to part shade, but will flower and fruit better with more sunlight. It also tolerates wet and dry soil locations, preferring moist conditions. Serviceberry trees can be used as a specimen plant, as an understory tree or as a shrub, under power lines, or planted in groupings as a border or screen. ‘Autumn Brilliance’ is a selection from a hybrid of Allegheny serviceberry and downy serviceberry and is known for good form, reliable flowering and brilliant red fall color. It also is said to have more resistance to leaf spot and fire blight than the straight species.

Allegheny Serviceberry trees or shrubs can be planted to provide food and habitat for wildlife. Birds relish the berries, as do humans. If we can beat the birds to the berries, they are used in jams, jellies, and pies. The berries have a good nutritional value as they are high in iron and copper, according to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

Allegheny Serviceberry is a great tree to plant on most acreage or urban landscape settings. They have a great appeal for their amazing fall color and produce tasty berries for us and for wildlife. The next time you are looking to plant a small tree, consider Allegheny Serviceberry or maybe even Autumn Brilliance serviceberry.

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