Amelanchier alnifolia is a widespread and polymorphic species, and its taxonomic and geographic limits have been viewed differently. Disagreements about the boundary between this species and Amelanchier humilis are evident in herbarium specimen annotations[
The distinctness of the varieties of this species has also been questioned with some authors treating them as three distinct species - Amelanchier alnifolia, Amelanchier florida and Amelanchier pumila[
Amelanchier canadensis alnifolia (Nutt.) Torr. & A.Gray
Amelanchier carrii Rydb.
Amelanchier leptodendron Lunell
Amelanchier macrocarpa Lunell
Amelanchier montana hort.
Amelanchier parvifolia hort.
Amelanchier sanguinea alnifolia (Nutt.) P.Landry
Aronia alnifolia Nutt.
Common Name: Saskatoon
Amelanchier alnifolia is a suckering, deciduous shrub or a small tree, producing a dense cluster of 1 - 20 erect stems that can be 1 - 8 metres tall[
The plant is commonly harvested from the wild for its fruit, which is used locally. It is also sometimes used medicinally and as a source of wood. It is sometimes cultivated for its edible fruit, both on a garden scale and commercially, whilst it is also used to provide shelter and stabilize the soil. [
]. An ornamental plant, it is grown in gardens for its floral display, the autumn colour of its leaves, and for its edible fruits, which attract birds to the garden[
Western and Central N. America - Yukon to Ontaria, south to Nevada, New Mexico and Texas
Stream banks and shores, lake shores, mountainsides, dry rocky and grassy slopes (northern shrub-steppe), hillsides, woods, thickets, shaded canyons, moist roadsides; at elevations from 30 - 2,900 metres[
|Other Uses Rating
Hardy to about -20°c according to one report[
], whilst another suggests that this species is hardy to about -50°c[
Prefers a rich loamy soil in a sunny position or semi-shade[
] but thrives in any soil that is not too dry or water-logged[
]. Plants are fairly lime tolerant[
], they also grow well in heavy clay soils.
All members of this genus have edible fruits and, whilst this is dry and uninteresting in some species, in many others it is sweet and juicy. Many of the species also have potential for use in the garden as edible ornamentals[
This species is particularly interesting because it is quite compact and produces an excellent quality quite large fruit[
The main draw-back to this genus is that birds adore the fruit and will often completely strip a tree well before it is fully ripe[
A very variable species, ranging from a thicket-forming shrub to a small tree in the wild[
]. It is occasionally cultivated for its edible fruit, there are several named varieties[
A stoloniferous species, spreading by suckers to form a thicket[
Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[
]. Grafting onto seedlings of Amelanchier lamarckii or Sorbus aucuparia is sometimes practised in order to avoid the potential problem of hybridizing[
Edible fruit - raw or cooked[
]. The fruit ripens in mid summer (early July in southern Britain), it is soft and juicy with a few small seeds in the centre. A very nice sweet flavour that is enjoyed by almost everyone who tries it, there is a hint of apple in the taste[
]. About the size of a blackcurrant, the fruit is produced in small clusters and the best wild forms can be 15mm in diameter[
]. The fruit can also be dried and used as raisins or made into pemmican[
]. The fruit is rich in iron and copper[
The leaves are a tea substitute[
Saskatoon was quite widely employed as a medicinal herb by the North American Indians, who used it to treat a wide range of minor complaints[
]. It is little used in modern herbalism.
An infusion of the inner bark is used as a treatment for snow-blindness[
A decoction of the fruit juice is mildly laxative. It has been used in the treatment of upset stomachs, to restore the appetite in children, it is also applied externally as ear and eye drops[
A decoction of the roots has been used in the treatment of colds[
]. It has also been used as a treatment for too frequent menstruation[
A decoction of the stems, combined with the stems of snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp) is diaphoretic. It has been used to induce sweating in the treatment of fevers, flu etc and also in the treatment of chest pains and lung infections[
A decoction of the plant, together with bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata) has been used as a contraceptive[
Other recipes involving this plant have also been used as contraceptives including a decoction of the ashes of the plant combined with the ashes of pine branches or buds[
]. A strong decoction of the bark was taken immediately after childbirth to hasten the dropping of the placenta. It was said to help clean out and help heal the woman's insides and also to stop her menstrual periods after the birth, thus acting as a form of birth control[
Plants have a spreading, suckering root system and are used in windbreaks for erosion control[
Young branches can be twisted to make a rope[
Wood - hard, straight grained, tough. Used for tool handles etc. The wood can be made even harder by heating it over a fire and it is easily moulded whilst still hot[
]. The young stems are used to make rims, handles and as a stiffening in basket making[
The following is a general description of the wood obtained from members of this genus:-
The heartwood is brown or reddish brown, it is usually absent from small specimens; the thick band of sapwood is slightly brownish. The texture is fine and uniform; the grain straight to irregular; lustre is medium; odour and taste are absent or not distinctive. The wood is hard, heavy, compact, tough, and strong, where formed the dark heartwood is durable. The appearance of the wood is usually marred by numerous brown lines (pith flecks). The wood is easily worked, taking a good polish. When of sufficient sice the wood is used locally for purposes such as tool handles and other small items - it is of no commercial interest, however, because of its scarcity and the small size of the plants[
Seed - it is best harvested 'green', when the seed is fully formed but before the seed coat has hardened, and then sown immediately in pots outdoors or in a cold frame. If stored seed is obtained early enough in the autumn, it can be given 4 weeks warm stratification before being left out in the winter and it should then germinate in the spring. Otherwise seed can be very slow to germinate, perhaps taking 18 months or more. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a sheltered outdoor position, planting them out once they are 20cm or more tall.
If there is sufficient seed it is best to sow it thinly in an outdoor seedbed[
]. Grow the seedlings on for two years in the seedbed before planting them out into their permanent positions during the winter.
Layering in spring - takes 18 months[
Division of suckers in late winter. The suckers need to have been growing for 2 years before you dig them up, otherwise they will not have formed roots. They can be planted out straight into their permanent positions if required.