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What is an Allegheny Serviceberry?

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  • Written By: Nick Doniger
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2016
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An Allegheny serviceberry, or Amelanchier laevis, is a deciduous tree commonly found in the eastern U.S. and eastern Canada. It is fairly resistant to cold and dry weather, though it grows best in moist soil and a sunny environment. The tree's name refers to the purple berries it produces during the summer, which may be consumed by humans and animals alike. Other aesthetic qualities associated with the tree include its white flowers and color changing foliage. Those who keep these plants as garden shrubs generally grow them from seeds.

Between April and May, the Allegheny serviceberry produces lightly scented, white flowers. Technically, the plant is actually part of the Rose family. Its leaves initially begin with a somewhat purplish color and become bluish green during the spring time. In autumn, the leaves will sport an orange/red color. The tree is a perennial, meaning that it will grow back yearly, though it is described as having a relatively short lifespan when compared to other types of deciduous trees.

In the middle of summer, dark purple fruits will grow plentifully on Allegheny serviceberry trees. These fruits are edible and high in iron. Native Americans traditionally dried the berries to make a product similar to raisins. Sometimes they used them to make a food called pemmican, which was typically consumed during the winter. This preparation includes mixing serviceberries with meat and animal fat.

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Birds and forest animals also enjoy eating serviceberries. The Allegheny serviceberry tree is known for attracting animals and insects, including bees. While susceptible to some insect damage, the tree usually survives even after being ravaged by bugs, sustaining only minimal cosmetic damage.

Though most often found in woods and meadows, the Allegheny serviceberry can be grown in gardens as well. Most commonly, the tree grows along the eastern portion of North America, including the American east coast and midwest, and parts of Canada. Its optimal growing conditions include moist, acidic soil, though it is fairly tolerant to dryness. The tree is also quite resistant to cold, surviving temperatures below -30° Fahrenheit (about -34° Celsius).

Allegheny serviceberries are often described as being somewhere in between a tree and a shrub. They grow between 15 and 30 feet tall (about 4.5 to 9 meters) with a similarly sized spread. It has been noted that the Allegheny serviceberry is often difficult to find in plant shops as a fully grown plant. Instead, the plant is most often propagated from seeds or roots.

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