Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Juneberry - Amelanchier alnifolia

The Juneberry - Amelanchier alnifolia - is a very hardy (to zone 2) medium to tall suckering shrub.  This shrub is native to hillsides, prairies and woody areas in North America, mainly the further north portions of the Mid-Western United States and prairie regions of Canada.  Juneberry -Amelanchier alnifolia is a close cousin of the Eastern Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis), which is found more commonly in the United States as a tall forest shrub.  Our neighbors to the North in Canada call the Juneberry the Saskatoon Serviceberry and even harvest it on farms for wholesale, you pick and fresh market uses.  The Juneberry seems to have several advantages to the more commonly grown/known Blueberry.  While Blueberries prefer well-drained acidic soils, the Juneberry is not so picky and will often thrive in areas where a Blueberry bush would die.  Juneberries are considered an uncommon fruit in the United States, with virtually no commercial cultivation.  In comparison to the market of our Canadian neighbors where Juneberries are grown on almost 900 farms covering more than 3,200 acres.  

The Buds of the Juneberry are arranged in an alternate fashion, when the buds appear they are a Chestnut Brown to Purple in color.  The leaves are a simple oval shape and are serrated to dentate from the mid sections up.  When young the leaves are a grayish color, but quickly changing to a smooth dark green.  In the fall the shrub has a completely different appearance when the leaves shift to a bright yellow color.  The white flowers form in erect racemes appearing only at the tips of the branches.  The bark is light brown in color often shifting to gray with age.  It's hardiness, upright form, and size allow the Juneberry to be planted as a screen, windbreak, landscape border or for naturalizing of an area. Often found growing 6-15 feet tall with a spread of 5- 12 feet.  The Juneberry has a very high wildlife value as it offers not only cover but various food sources. The stems and twigs are eaten by deer, elk and moose. The fruits are eaten by a variety of small mammals and birds. The wood of the Juneberry was used in crafting arrow shafts by the Native Americans.

Image Citation (Flowers): Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte, Bugwood.org

Juneberries are very nutritious and are sold fresh, frozen, and even processed.  They are most commonly compared in flavor texture and appearance to the common Blueberry.  An average Juneberry contains 18 percent sugar, and about 80 percent water.   Juneberries have a lower moisture content than blueberries, so they have relatively higher amounts of calcium, fiber, proteins, carbohydrates and lipids. Juneberries are an excellent source of iron, with each serving providing around 23% of the recommended daily amount of iron (this is almost double what a Blueberry contains). They also provide healthy amounts of potassium, magnesium, anthocyanins.  The levels of phosphorous. vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, folate, vitamin A and vitamin E are almost identical to that of a Blueberry.

Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte, Bugwood.org

If you want to begin your own Juneberry crop, begin by developing your rows well in advance of ordering or delivery of plant material. Rows should be spaced on average 10 – 12 feet apart, planning for about 4 feet between bushes at maturity.  It will take patience as your first crop will not be ready until three years after planting, but you can expect each bush to yield 4 – 6 pounds of berries annually.  Remember that they need adequate water to bear fruit but do not tolerant excessively wet roots so do not overwater.  Great care in establishing your new crop will provide you with a very yummy payoff year after year!

Some commonly cultivated varieties you may find for purchase are:   Honeywood Juneberry (A. alnifolia 'Honeywood'), Northline Juneberry (A. alnifolia 'Northline'), Pembina Juneberry (A. alnifolia 'Pembina'), Smokey Juneberry (A. alnifolia 'Smokey'), and Success Juneberry (A. alnifolia 'Success')

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