This low-growing, broadly rounded serviceberry produces an abundance of white flowers and sweet, edible fruits. The multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub grows 3 to 5 feet tall with showy, five-petaled flowers that attract springtime bees and other pollinators. The dark purple fruits mature in summer and are often used to make pies, if the birds haven’t eaten them first. Running serviceberry is easily grown in a wide range of well-drained soils in full or part sun, with the best flower-and-fruit production occurring in full sun. Like other members of its genus, it has excellent fall colors of yellow, red, and orange. It’s tolerant of drought and has only occasional problems with diseases and pests. Some references use the name stolonifera for this plant, which refers to its tendency to spread by stolons to form colonies. Spicata simply means “with flowers in spikes.” Because it spreads so readily, it may be used for erosion control or to form a privacy hedge. It’s an ideal plant for filling in bare areas where other plants may struggle to survive. However, if you don’t want a spreading thicket, plant it near a wall or some other barrier. It could also be planted in the ground in a large, bottomless container as a specimen shrub.
Native habitats include woodlands, forest edges, prairies and fields, disturbed sites, and rocky bluffs. Use it in naturalized areas, in shrub borders, and in woodland or native plant gardens. It’s also suitable for stream banks and edges of ponds.
Grows 3-5’ tall and wide.
Prefers full or part sun.
Prefers rich, acidic soil but grows in any soil that’s not overly dry or waterlogged, including loamy, sandy, clay, and shallow gravelly soil.
Drooping clusters of flowers with oblong petals bloom in May before the leaves emerge, followed by small, round fruits containing 4-10 seeds.
Green leaves are ovately shaped and 1-3” long with fine serrations on the upper 2/3 of the leaf margins.
Young stems have ashy-gray bark with faint stripes. The reddish-brown twigs are slender and flexible.
Host plant for 105 species of Lepidoptera larvae, including the eastern tiger swallowtail, red-spotted, and admiral butterflies and interrupted dagger, pale beauty, and 2 specialist moths. Bees are attracted to the flowers, and fruits are eaten by songbirds, ruffed grouse, and a wide range of mammals. It’s mildly resistant to deer.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
The plant has been used medicinally to support the digestive and reproductive systems. A tea made from the roots was used to treat excessive menstrual bleeding and diarrhea. The inner bark was used as a disinfectant wash for eyes.
The fruits contain plenty of vitamins and minerals along with fiber and pectin, which can help bind loose stools.
Native Americans mashed and dried the fruits into cakes or mixed the dried fruits with meat and fat to form pemmican for long winter travels. The fruits are delicious fresh off the shrub, dropped into yogurt or cereal, or baked into pies, breads, and muffins. They are often used to make jam or preserves.
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