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Juneberry – Amelanchier alnifolia Nutt.



JUNEBERRY TAXONOMY

Prized for their flowers and foliage color as much as their fruit, dozens of species of Amelanchier (Family Rosaceae, subfamily Pomoideae) are cultivated mostly as home garden plants in North America. Various species are adapted to every state in the US and province of Canada, but most fruit production occurs in northern areas – Michigan, Minnesota, Canada. Common names include: juneberry, serviceberry, sarvis or sarvistree, shadblow, swamp sugar pear, currant tree, snowy mespilus, indian pear, Saskatoon berry, Canadian medlar, bilberry, maycherry. The name “saskatoon” derives from the Blackfoot Indian word “mis-sask-quah-too-min”.

A. alnifolia Nutt. = Saskatoon, Juneberry or Western Serviceberry; this is the main species from which fruiting cultivars are derived. Other commonly used species include: A. arborea (Downy serviceberry), A. asiatica (Asian serviceberry), A. canadensis (shadblow seviceberry), A. laevis (Allegheny serviceberry).

ORIGIN OF AMELANCHIER ALNIFOLIA NUTT, HISTORY OF CULTIVATION

Juneberries have been collected from the wild by Native Americans and early settlers for centuries. Cultivation is relatively limited.

Folklore, medicinal and non-food uses.
Crude extracts of Amelanchier utahensis are being studied for use as cancer therapy drugs.

Production statistics – About 200-250 hectares of Amelanchier planted for “pick your own” fruit production in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Some feel that the industry could expand to about 4000 ha in the northern great plains. Bushes bear fruit in 2-4 yr after transplanting, up to 6 tons/acre (13MT/ha) under best conditions. Fruit ripen evenly in June-July, and can therefore be mechanically harvested. In fact, juneberries would be managed very similar to blueberries if planted to large acreages. Some people consider juneberries to be a blueberry substitute for the more extreme environments of the North American great plains.

WORLD AND UNITED STATES JUNEBERRY PRODUCTION

For the most up to date statistical data on United States and World production numbers please refer to the following two websites:

World: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Statistics Division (FAOSTAT). FAOSTAT

United States: The United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA Ag Stats). USDA Ag Stats

JUNEBERRY BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION

A. Plant: Slender, erect shrub 6-15 ft tall.

B. Flowers: White (rarely pink) flowers borne in small tomentose racemes, 3-10 flowers per inflorescence. Borne on previous year’s growth in leaf axils. Flowering occurs relatively early.

C. Pollination: Unclear; since most plantings are seed propagated, a considerable degree of cross-pollination occurs.

D. Fruit: a small, berry-like pome (¼ to ½ inch), dark purple with bloom, 4-10 seeds per fruit. Fruit ripens in June (& July), hence the name.

JUNEBERRY GENERAL CULTURE

A. Soils and Climate:

Soil – Drought tolerance is higher than most small fruits; this plant flowers and fruits in the western great plains with limited rainfall and calcareous soil.
Climate – This species is native to the northern Great Plains over to the Pacific Northwest, and is said to have good adaptation to cool, semi-arid climates. I have seen several cultivars fruit and do well in the heat and humidity of Georgia, so climate does not appear to limit this species very much.

Chilling requirement – Unknown, but probably 500-1000 hr based on the performance of cultivars in Athens, GA (where they bloom earlier than other pome fruits)
Cold hardiness – No damage even at -60°C (-76°F)!

B. Propagation: Seedlings are most commonly grown. Clones are produced from suckers, root cuttings, or softwood cuttings.

C. Rootstocks: Usually not used; seedlings are grown commercially.

D. Orchard design, pruning, training: Bushes are spaced 6-8 ft apart in hedgerows 13-16 feet apart. Height is maintained at about 6 ft.

THE JUNEBERRY’S CONTRIBUTION TO DIET

Juneberries are most often processed into pies, jellies, jams, syrups, or wine. Fresh juneberries are fairly bland, seedy, and mealy (my opinion). Fruit harvested early is best for processing, and fully mature fruit are best for fresh consumption or wine. The plains indians used Amelanchier berries to make pemmican, a staple food consisting of dried lean meat, fat, and dried berries.