downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)
Amelanchier canadensis L.
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Confirmed.
TAXONOMy: The currently accepted scientific name for downy
serviceberry is Amelanchier arborea (Michx.) Fern. Downy service-
berry hybridizes with the following species: 1) Amelanchier humilis
Wieg., 2) Amelanchier canadensis (L.) Medic., 3) Amelanchier laevis
Wieg., and 4) Amelanchier bartramiana (Tausch) Roemer. Hybridiza-
tion is common and usually produces fertile offspring. Authors differ in
their treatment of the hybrids.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Downy serviceberry
is a tall, deciduous shrub or small tree, growing up to 30 feet (9 m) or more.
Its trunk is about 16 inches (40 cm) in diameter. The maximum recorded
height and diameter for downy serviceberry is 70 feet (21 m) high and 2
feet (0.6 m) d.b.h. Its branches are purplish when young but turn grey at
maturity. Leaves are alternate and simple with serrate margins. They are
almost twice as long as broad. Flowers are white, and the berrylike pomme
fruit is dark red to purple. There are 4 to 10 seeds per fruit.
REGENERATION PROCESSES: Downy serviceberry regenerates
mainly by seed, but it also sprouts from the root crown. Seeds are dis-
persed by birds and mammals; bird ingestion of seeds is an important
scarification process. Seeds should be collected soon after ripening before
animals eat them. Seeds can be washed from the fruits by mashing them
with water. There is an average of 80,000 cleaned seeds per pound
(176,000 kg). Seeds should be dry stored at 41 degrees Fahrenheit
(5 deg C) in sealed containers. Seeds can be sown in either fall or spring
after 2 to 6 months of cold stratification, but they will not usually germi-
nate until after the second spring.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Downy serviceberry grows on a variety
of sites from swampy lowlands to dry woods and sandy bluffs. It also grows
on rocky ridges, forest edges, and open woodlands and fields. In the mixed
hardwoods of Appalachia, downy serviceberry may compete better with
other species in stands on low quality sites.
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Downy serviceberry is a late successional
to climax species in mixed-hardwood forests of the central United States.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: In the northern part of its range,
downy serviceberry flowers at the same time its leaves emerge in April
and May. Fruits are produced in June and July. In southern parts of its
range, downy serviceberry flowers in March and produces fruit from June
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Downy serviceberry occurs from the
southern tip of Newfoundland south to the northern tip of the Florida Pan-
handle and west to southern Ontario and Quebec, eastern Kansas, the
eastern edge of Nebraska, and southern Mississippi and Alabama. North
of Virginia, it is found along the coast, but from Virginia south it occurs inland.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION:
Tree specimens can be found on trails marked in red.
Appalachian Trail/Old Trail
South Ridge/North Ridge
Rolling Meadows/ Lost Mountain
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES: Downy service-
berry grows in red spruce (Picea rubens)-Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) forests
of the mountainous Southeast. Here it grows in association with yellow
birch (Betula alleghaniensis), mountain ash (Sorbus americana), elder-
berry (Sambucus pubens), and hobblebush (Viburnum alnifolium) at
elevations between 4,950 and 6,600 feet (1,500-2,000 m). Soils in these
types are moderately drained Inceptisols with a thick organic horizon and
a low pH. In the Midwest downy serviceberry grows with boxelder (Acer
negundo), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), white oak (Quercus alba),
black ash (Fraxinus nigra), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), shag-
bark hickory (Carya ovata), and American hornbeam (Carpinus caro-
liniana). Soils here are well-drained silty clay loam and poorly drained silt
loams. Some understory associates include lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium
angustifolium), penstemon (Penstemon canescens), raspberry (Rubus
spp.), greenbrier (Smilax spp.), and witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana).
IMPORTANCE AND USES: At least 40 bird species and several dozen
mammal species eat the fruit of the Amelanchier genus. Mammals that use
downy serviceberry include squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, foxes, black
bears, and elk. Downy serviceberry is the preferred food of the gypsy moth
(Lymantria dispar) during its larval stages. Downy serviceberry has been
known to increase in number and density after defoliation from gypsy
In areas where downy serviceberry grows big enough, it is used for pulp-
Best in shrub borders, or in woodland, naturalized or native plant gardens,
especially with dark or shaded backdrops which tend to highlight the form,
flowers and fall color of the plant. Also effective along stream banks and
Crooked Run Valley