1240 Amelanchier x grandifloraCommon Names: apple serviceberry Family: Rosaceae (rose Family)
Apple serviceberry is tetraploid hybrid between two North American species of serviceberry. It a vase shaped shrub or small tree that gets up to 15-25 ft (4-8 m) tall with a similar spread. Unless pruned treelike to a central leader, apple serviceberry grows as a dense shrub with many upright stems that are much branched. The deciduous leaves are 2-3 in (5-7 cm) long, alternate, and more or less oval in shape with finely toothed margins. They open purplish bronze, turn green by late spring, and then transform to colorful oranges and reds in the fall. In early spring apple serviceberry delights with hanging clusters of very showy flowers, tinged at first with pink, then soon becoming pure white. Individual flowers are star shaped with five petals and about a half inch (12 mm) across. They are followed by attractive sweet and juicy bluish black fruits (technically pomes) about a half inch (12 mm) long.
The various cultivars of apple serviceberry have been selected from the progeny of crosses between Amelanchier arborea (downy serviceberry) and A. laevis (Allegheny serviceberry). Apple serviceberry has larger flowers than either of its parents and better fruit than A. laevis. It seems to produce fewer suckers than either parent. ‘Autumn Brilliance’ is one of the most popular cultivars and noted for its large flowers, resistance to disease and brilliant red autumn color. ‘Princess Diana’ is a relatively slow grower with larger fruits, outstanding fall color, good cold hardiness, and good disease resistance. ‘Strata’ has layered horizontal branches that add interest in all seasons. ‘Rubescens’ has purplish buds and flower petals tinged with pink.
The two parent species of the apple serviceberry hybrids are both native to eastern North America. Amelanchier laevis occurs naturally from Quebec and Ontario west to the Mississippi River and south to northern Alabama and Georgia. A. arborea ranges further west into Kansas and Texas and further south into the Panhandle of Florida.
Light: Grow serviceberry in full sun to partial shade. Moisture: The serviceberries like rich, acidic soil that is moist but well drained. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 8. ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Princess Diana’ appear to have greater cold tolerance than other cultivars and can be grown in zone 4. With afternoon shade, some cultivars can be grown in zone 9. Propagation: Cuttings of young, fast growing stem tips are easy to root. You can also remove suckers to start new plants. Seeds may be viable but are likely to produce unpredictable results.
Apple serviceberry makes a great specimen shrub or small tree in a petite yard or next to a patio. It begins the year with colorful bronze foliage, quickly follows with spectacular clusters of pure white flowers, then displays pretty purplish black berries, and finally turns rich red and orange before winter. The berries may even persist through much of the winter unless they are eaten first. Grow apple serviceberry in a naturalized setting at the edge of a woodland or in the semi-shade of large deciduous trees. Or, keep it shrubby and include it in an informal hedge or screen.
This is a great residential street tree that doesn’t get so tall as to interfere with power lines or street lights. It is useful for the buffer strip around a parking lot or the median in an avenue. Apple serviceberry can be grown in a container.
Birds flock to the persistent fruits which, it is said, taste somewhat like blueberries. They are used in pies, jams and preserves. (The fruits, not the birds.)
Some authorities say Amelanchier x grandiflora is a naturally occurring hybrid between A. laevis and A. arborea. Others maintain it is of garden origin. Either way, keen observers have selected outstanding clones for our cultivating pleasure.
The related shadbush (Amelanchier canadensis) of the eastern North American Coastal Plain has smaller flowers in upright clusters and is more cold hardy.
The correct way to say the scientific name is “Amelanchier the hybrid species grandiflora.”
Steve Christman 5/18/15; updated 2/16/17