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Amelanchier alnifolia - Saskatoon service berry


Called in the trade saskatoon or blueberry tree, the Saskatoon service berry is sometimes planted for its looks, but more often for its edible berries. Dark blue, they ripen at Mustila in early August. They have a unique taste, somewhere between blueberry, rowan and plum, with a trace of almond. The berries are sweet and almost completely without acidity, so they are often used mixed with other berries.

The Saskatoon service berry is a multi-stemmed shrub very like garden shadblow (A. spicata), though somewhat broader and more tree-like in habit. Although it doesn’t produce root suckers, it does produce suckers from the root collar. The leaves usually have a blunt or even notched tip, the edges having large widely spaced teeth. The flowers are like those of the bird-cherry, but smaller, though the plant itself is more closely related to the rowans.

The Saskatoon is not very common in Finland but shrubs have been found in old parks and arboreta. Nowadays nurseries market varieties like ‘Smoky’ and ‘Northline’ mainly for their berries.

The specimens at Mustila are of unknown origin but very productive and successful. They have gradually been spread throughout the Arboretum by birds. This tendency to escape into the wild should be kept in mind when planting any of the service berries, though so far only the shadblow has spread widely enough to be regarded as an exotic weed.