Leonard and I went serviceberry picking yesterday and came home with enough of these mildly sweet berries to make a pie. The serviceberry fruits are delicious eaten raw or can be made into jam, syrup or other sweet treats.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) is a deciduous shrub or tree with alternate leaves that are toothed toward the tip and have an entire margin near the leaf base. The cream or white flowers are arranged loosely in clusters of two or more at the leafy ends of side branches.
Serviceberry fruits have waxy skin and two seeds. They begin green and ripen through shades of red, becoming purple when ripe.
Native Americans dried serviceberries for long-term storage and used them in pemmican. Sometimes the berries were used to treat constipation or other stomach disorders. Serviceberry juice also makes a lovely purple dye.
Bears particularly enjoy serviceberries, as do birds, coyotes and small mammals. Last summer we came upon a black bear gorging itself in a serviceberry patch. When it saw us the bear immediately left, allowing us to enjoy handfuls of serviceberries as a trail snack.
Other colloquial names for A alnifolia include saskatoon, shadbush and chuckley pear.
The serviceberry flowers were photographed along the Pacific Crest Trail near Baum Lake (Shasta Co CA) in May, while the fruits were growing in the Modoc National Forest along Road 40N11B not far from Adin CA (Modoc County) during July.