|A. alnifolia var. semiintegrifolia in Chelan County, Washington|
|Natural range of Amelanchier alnifolia|
Amelanchier alnifolia, the Saskatoon berry, Pacific serviceberry, western serviceberry, alder-leaf shadbush, dwarf shadbush, chuckley pear, or western juneberry, is a shrub with an edible berry-like fruit, native to North America.
It is a deciduous shrub or small tree that most often grows to 1–8 metres (3–26 feet), rarely to 10 m or 33 ft, in height. Its growth form spans from suckering and forming colonies to clumped. The leaves are oval to nearly circular, 2–5 centimetres (3⁄4–2 inches) long and 1–4.5 cm (1⁄2–1+3⁄4 in) broad, on a 0.5–2 cm (1⁄4–3⁄4 in) leaf stem, margins toothed mostly above the middle.
As with all species in the genus Amelanchier, the flowers are white, with five quite separate petals and five sepals. In A. alnifolia, they are about 2.5–5 cm (1–2 in) across, with 20 stamens and five styles, appearing on short racemes of 3–20, somewhat crowded together, blooming from April to July.
The fruit is a small purple pome 5–15 mm (3⁄16–19⁄32 in) in diameter, ripening in early summer in the coastal areas and late summer further inland. Resembling blueberries, it has a waxy bloom. Serviceberries are relatively difficult to identify.
Saskatoons picked near Wainwright, Alberta
Also similar in composition to blueberries, saskatoons have total polyphenol content of 452 milligrams per 100 grams (average of 'Smoky' and 'Northline' cultivars), flavonols (61 mg) and anthocyanins (178 mg), although others have found the phenolic values to be either lower in the 'Smoky' cultivar or higher. Quercetin, cyanidin, delphinidin, pelargonidin, petunidin, peonidin, and malvidin were present in saskatoon berries.
- A. a. var. alnifolia. Northeastern part of the species' range.
- A. a. var. pumila (Nutt.) A.Nelson. Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada.
- A. a. var. semiintegrifolia (Hook.) C.L.Hitchc. Pacific coastal regions, Alaska to northwestern California.
Historically, it was also called pigeon berry.
Distribution and habitat
The plant can be found from Alaska across most of western Canada and in the western and north-central United States. It grows from sea level in the north of the range, up to 2,600 m (8,530 ft) elevation in California and 3,400 m (11,200 ft) in the Rocky Mountains. It is a common shrub in the forest understory, as well as canyons.
A. alnifolia is susceptible to cedar-apple rust, entomosporium leaf spot, fireblight, brown rot, cytospora canker, powdery mildew, and blackleaf. Problem insects include aphids, thrips, mites, bud moths, Saskatoon sawflies, and pear slug sawflies. It is also a larval host to the pale tiger swallowtail, two-tailed swallowtail, and the western tiger swallowtail.
Seedlings are planted with 4.0–6.1 m (13–20 ft) between rows and 0.46–0.91 m (1.5–3 ft) between plants. An individual bush may bear fruit 30 or more years.
Saskatoons are adaptable to most soil types with exception of poorly drained or heavy clay soils lacking organic matter. Shallow soils should be avoided, especially if the water table is high or erratic. Winter hardiness is exceptional, but frost can damage blooms as late as May. Large amounts of sunshine are needed for fruit ripening.
With a sweet, nutty taste, the fruits have long been eaten by Indigenous peoples in Canada, fresh or dried. They are well known as an ingredient in pemmican, a preparation of dried meat to which saskatoon berries are added as flavour and preservative. They are used in saskatoon berry pie, jam, wines, cider, beers, and sugar-infused berries similar to dried cranberries used for cereals, trail mix, and snack foods.
In 2004, the British Food Standards Agency suspended saskatoon berries from retail sales pending safety testing; the ban eventually was lifted after pressure from the European Union.
|Nutrients in raw saskatoon berries|
|Nutrient||Value per 100 g||% Daily Value|
|Total dietary fiber||5.9 g||20%|
|Sugars, total||11.4 g||8%|
|Vitamin C||3.6 mg||4%|
|Vitamin A||11 IU||1%|
|Vitamin E||1.1 mg||7%|
|Riboflavin||3.5 mg||> 100%|
|Panthothenic acid||0.3 mg||6%|
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Records: 42' x 3'3" x 43', Beacon Rock State Park, WA (1993); 27' x 3'9" x 22', Douglas County, OR (1975)
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