This native large shrub or small tree has a moderate growth rate in most soils. Multiple stems are upright and highly branched forming a dense shrub with many small-diameter branches or, if properly pruned, a small tree. Trees can be trained to, and are offered by nurseries, with one trunk. The main ornamental features are white flowers followed by purple fruit in late spring or early summer. Fruits are produced before the leaves in spring and are quickly eaten by birds. Serviceberry puts on a brilliant fall color display ranging from yellow and orange to dull red. This tree is suitable for naturalistic plantings and will attract birds. The tree suckers from the base of the trunk, which can be a maintenance problem in urban plantings or in formal landscapes.
It is know variously as serviceberry, sarviceberry, sarvistree, shadbush, Juneberry, Mespilus, grape pear, swamp sugar pear, bloody choke-berry and Saskatoon berry. The name Amelanchier is said to derive from the honey-tasting berries. These berries are actually quite good in preserves etc., but are rarely used because they are so quickly eaten by birds. The names containing “shad” apparently refers to the flowering time of the plant, which happens when the shad fish are running. The wood, called Meesassquat-ahtic, was prized by the Cree for making arrows. As bonsai, however, the Amelanchier is still in its infancy. One species, A. asiatica, the Japanese Juneberry, is used somewhat in Japan. The other species listed are experimental; the most success has come from using A. alnifolia and A. lamarckii.
Part shade, part sun, full sun.
A temperate tree, some Amelanchier varieties can take up to Zone 3, but most dislike it warmer than Zone 8.
Every two weeks, spring through autumn, using liquid bonsai fertilizer or half-strength plant food.
Pruning and wiring:
Likes to sucker from the roots, so if a large trunk is desired, this tendency must be checked by constant pruning. Styling Amelanchier as a clump can put this characteristic to positive use.
Seeds, softwood cuttings, grafting, air-layering.
Every second year in early spring, using basic soil mix. Amelanchier likes to put down long taproots, so it may take a few years in gradually smaller training pots to establish it as bonsai.
Pests and diseases:
Cambium miners cause concern when noticed but are not very damaging to the tree. The mines can extend from a twig all the way down to the roots. The mines form light-colored lines in the bark. No controls are usually suggested. A leaf miner will mine leaves, particularly the lower half of the leaf. The mines are irregular in shape. The leaves of amelanchier are skeletonized by at least two insects. The first insect forms small cocoons on the undersides of leaves. Skeletonized leaves look as though they have windows in them after the insects scrape tissue off the top and bottom of the leaves. The second insect is the larva of the pear sawfly. The larvae are black to greenish black and look slimy. Adult sawflies lay eggs in early and late summer. Heavily skeletonized leaves drop off. Several borers attack amelanchier. Healthy trees are considered less susceptible so regular fertilization and watering during dry spells will help prevent borer attacks. Spider mites will feed on amelanchier. These insects are hard to detect as they are so small. The main symptom of mite injury is the loss of green leaf coloration. If the infestation is heavy, very fine webbing may be seen. Horticultural oil sprays help control mite infestations. Aphids of several types suck juices from amelanchier. Heavy infestations cause distortion of the foliage and new growth, and deposit large amounts of sticky honeydew on lower foliage. Black sooty mold will grow on the honeydew.
Witches broom, also called black mildew, infects the growing point causing the formation of many stems. The cluster of stems is called the witches broom. Another symptom is a black fungal growth, coating the undersides of the leaves. The damage to the tree is usually not serious and the brooms can be pruned off. No chemical controls are suggested. Leaf blight can cause leaf drop when a severe infection occurs. The disease causes small purple spots on the leaves. The spots enlarge and turn brown, later a small black dot will be seen in the center of the spot. Large numbers of spots cause infected leaves to drop. Fire blight is characterized by the sudden wilting and death of branch tips. The blossoms wilt, blacken and hang on the twig. The bark is shriveled and has small bumps or blisters on it. Sometimes gum oozes out of the infected area and a crack forms between the diseased and healthy bark. Control with chemicals is difficult. Diseased branches should be pruned out. Make the cut at least four inches beyond the diseased area. Disinfect pruning tools with bleach between cuts. Fertilizing heavily with nitrogen increases susceptibility to fire blight. Powdery mildews of several types cause white powdery growth on the leaves of amelanchier. Late in the season no controls may be needed. Fruit rot be a problem in wet weather. The fruits are often eaten by birds so may not be around long enough to become diseased. Cedar rusts can be troublesome.
Some species suitable for bonsai:
Amelanchier alnifolia: Western serviceberry, coarsely toothed rounded leaves, clusters of white flowers, apple-shaped fruits. Normally forms shrubby thickets. Zones 4-9.
Amelanchier arborea (also called A. canadensis): shadbush, downy serviceberry, sarvistree, juneberry, sarviceberry - smooth, light brown bark, profuse white flowers, and purple- red fruit that is loved by birds. It has a nice autumn display of orange and yellow leaves. Hardy in Zones 3-8. It seems to dislike pot culture immensely.
Amelanchier asiatica: Japanese juneberry - quite possibly the most popular Amalanchier species for bonsai.
Amelanchier x grandiflora: apple serviceberry - a hybrid between A. arborea and A. laevis, with larger flowers.
Amelanchier laevis: Allegheny serviceberry - Very similar to A. arborea, but new leaves are tinged purple.
Amelanchier lamarckii: snowy mespilus - Scented white flowers in mid-spring, followed by purple fruit in autumn.
Amelanchier stolonifera: running serviceberry Bibliography: USDA Fact Sheet ST-73
Compiled by Sabrina Caine