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Native Species Spotlight: Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis)
Published: 8/11/2023
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It’s never too early to start thinking about the fall planting season and serviceberry makes an excellent native selection for a variety of landscapes. The species boasts multiple seasons of interest. Its fragrant and showy white flowers bloom early in the spring and give rise to berry-like fruit that ripens to dark red or purple in the early summer. The fruit are loved by birds and other wildlife but are also edible for humans. They’re said to taste like a cross between a blueberry and a blackberry with a tinge of almond flavor. Finally, the serviceberry’s foliage puts on a show in the fall when it turns vibrant orange and red. Serviceberry is most commonly categorized as a large shrub, growing with multiple stems and topping out at about 15-25’ tall and equally wide. Though, they can be pruned into more of a tree-like, single-stem form as well. They’ll do best in partial sun or shade and tolerate Novi’s heavy clay soils well. However, they do not tolerate drought well, so they should be planted in an area that can be easily watered. The City of Novi has planted 36 new serviceberry shrubs in the past year and has nearly 500 inventoried in its parks and along public roads City-wide. Many native species can be difficult to source at retail stores, but serviceberry tend to be more widely available at nurseries and garden centers. As a native species, serviceberry offers some of the greatest benefits to Novi’s native insects—including pollinators—and other wildlife. In fact, there are 115 species of butterflies and moths that use serviceberry as a host plant, including the charismatic eastern tiger swallowtail and luna moth. Between the serviceberry’s versatility in the landscape, beauty, edible fruit, and native wildlife benefits, it makes for an excellent choice for a landscape plan. It’s a good native alternative to non-native (and arguably overplanted) shrubs like forsythia, lilac, and weigela.