By Ann Farnham, LLA
Amelanchier laevis, the botanical name for Allegheny Serviceberry or Shadblow, is the Ewing Environmental Commission’s choice for the April Tree of the Month.
A native, deciduous, and usually multi-trunked tree, this beauty blooms from April into May with billowy, drooping clusters of small white flowers which appear before the leaves. Each five-petalled flower measures about one inch in diameter and the flowers often emit a sweet fragrance. Unfortunately they do not last longer than three days if the bloom coincides with warm weather. The flowers are followed by small, dark purplish -black, round, sweet and edible fruit which resemble blueberries in size and flavor. The fruit, which can be used for jellies, jams and pies, is favored by many bird species and small animals, which frequently strip the trees before the jelly-maker has a chance to harvest the fruit. Native Americans used these berries extensively for food.
The new leaves, which are finely toothed along the edges and alternately arranged along the stems, unfold with a bronzy color and mature to a shiny, dark green in the summer. In the fall, the leaves become brilliantly yellow -orange to red. The coloration occurs early and the leaves fall early in the season.
Amelanchier laevis is usually a small tree which reaches 15’ to 25’ tall and 5’ to 10’ wide, but it may become much larger, to 40’, in optimal conditions. It has a medium growth rate and favors full sun and very moist sites. It transplants easily and is used successfully as a small street tree, as a specimen planting, in groupings and in naturalized settings. Its water tolerance makes it useful in detention basins, bioretention swales, and pond edges.
There are about 25 species and varieties of Amelanchier, most of which are native, but laevis, canadensis, and x grandiflora are the most often used. Some of our native Amelanchier trees have become naturalized in Europe.
The common name “Shadblow” comes from the fact that the tree blooms when the shad are running.
Unfortunately, this tree, a member of the Rose family, while fairly pollution tolerant, is subject to rusts, scales, aphids, mildews, red spider mites and fireblight, among other insects and diseases; their siting and maintenance must be carefully considered.
The Ewing Environmental Commission ( firstname.lastname@example.org) welcomes suggestions for the Tree of the Month from all Ewing residents.