Amelanchier alnifolia

Amelanchier alnifolia, the Saskatoon berry, Pacific serviceberry, western serviceberry, alder-leaf shadbush, dwarf shadbush, chuckley pear, or western juneberry,[2] is a shrub with edible berry-like fruit, native to North America from Alaska across most of western Canada and in the western and north-central United States. Historically, it was also called pigeon berry.[3] 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,[2][4][5] and is a common shrub in the forest understory.[6]

Amelanchier alnifolia
Amelanchier alnifolia var. semiintegrifolia 4.jpg
A. a. var. semiintegrifolia at Icicle Canyon, Chelan County Washington
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Amelanchier
A. alnifolia
Binomial name
Amelanchier alnifolia
(Nutt.) Nutt.
Amelanchier alnifolia range map 1.png
Natural range of Amelanchier alnifolia
  • A. florida Lindl.
  • A. pumila (Torr. & A. Gray) Nutt. ex M. Roem.
  • Aronia alnifolia Nutt.


The name saskatoon derives from the Cree inanimate noun ᒥᓵᐢᐠᐘᑑᒥᓇ misâskwatômina ( ᒥᓵᐢᐠᐘᑑᒥᐣ misâskwatômin NI sg, 'saskatoonberry', misâskwatômina NI pl 'saskatoonberries').[7] The city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is named after this berry.[7]

The species name alnifolia is a feminine adjective. It is a compound of the Latin word for "alder", alnus, and the word for "leaf", folium.

Amelanchier alnifolia var. semiintegrifolia shrub in flower, Craft Island Washington


It is a deciduous shrub or small tree that most often grows to 1–8 m (3–26 ft),[5] rarely to 10 m or 33 ft,[8] in height. Its growth form spans from suckering and forming colonies to clumped.[4]

The leaves are oval to nearly circular, 2–5 cm (34–2 in) long and 1–4.5 cm (121+34 in) broad, on a 0.5–2 cm (1434 in) leaf stem, margins toothed mostly above the middle.[4] The foliage is browsed by deer, elk, rabbits, and livestock.[9][10]

As with all species in the genus Amelanchier, the flowers are white,[11] with five quite separate petals. In A. alnifolia, they are about 2–3 cm (341+14 in) across,[citation needed] and appear on short racemes of three to 20[4] somewhat crowded together, in spring while the new leaves are still expanding.

The fruit is a small purple pome 5–15 mm (3161932 in) in diameter, ripening in early summer in the coastal areas and late summer further inland.[4][5] They are eaten by wildlife including birds, squirrels, and bears.[9] It is also a larval host to the pale tiger swallowtail, two-tailed swallowtail, and the western tiger swallowtail.[12]


The three varieties are:[5][13]

  • A. a. var. alnifolia. Northeastern part of the species' range.[14]
  • A. a. var. pumila (Nutt.) A.Nelson. Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada.[15][16]
  • A. a. var. semiintegrifolia (Hook.) C.L.Hitchc. Pacific coastal regions, Alaska to northwestern California.[17][18]

Cultivation and usesEdit

Seedlings are planted with 13–20 feet (4.0–6.1 m) between rows and 1.5–3 feet (0.46–0.91 m) between plants. An individual bush may bear fruit 30 or more years.[19]

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.[19][20]

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.[21][22][23][20]

In 2004, the British Food Standards Agency suspended saskatoon berries from retail sales[24] pending safety testing; the ban eventually was lifted after pressure from the European Union.[citation needed]

Diseases and pestsEdit

A. alnifolia is susceptible to cedar-apple rust, entomosporium leaf spot, fireblight, brown rot, cytospora canker, powdery mildew, and blackleaf.[25] Problem insects include aphids, thrips, mites, bud moths, Saskatoon sawflies, and pear slug sawflies.[25]


The pomes, about 10 mm in diameter, ripen in summer.
Resembling blueberries, the fruit have a waxy bloom.
Saskatoons picked near Wainwright, Alberta.
Nutrients in raw saskatoon berries[21]
Nutrient Value per 100 g % Daily Value
Energy 85 kcal
Total dietary fiber 5.9 g 20%
Sugars, total 11.4 g 8%
Calcium 42 mg 4%
Magnesium 24 mg 6%
Iron 1 mg 12%
Manganese 1.4 mg 70%
Potassium 162 mg 3%
Sodium 0.5 mg 0%
Vitamin C 3.6 mg 4%
Vitamin A 11 IU 1%
Vitamin E 1.1 mg 7%
Folate 4.6 µg 1%
Riboflavin 3.5 mg > 100%
Panthothenic acid 0.3 mg 6%
Pyridoxine 0.03 mg 2%
Biotin 20 µg 67%

Saskatoon berries contain significant amounts of total dietary fiber, riboflavin and biotin, and the dietary minerals, iron and manganese, a nutrient profile similar to the content of blueberries.[21]


Also similar in composition to blueberries,[21] saskatoons have total polyphenol content of 452 mg per 100 g (average of 'Smoky' and 'Northline' cultivars), flavonols (61 mg) and anthocyanins (178 mg),[21] although others have found the phenolic values to be either lower in the 'Smoky' cultivar[26] or higher.[27] Quercetin, cyanidin, delphinidin, pelargonidin, petunidin, peonidin, and malvidin were present in saskatoon berries.[21][28]

Unripe fruit


  Media related to Amelanchier alnifolia at Wikimedia Commons

  1. ^ Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). & IUCN SSC Global Tree Specialist Group. (2018). "Amelanchier alnifolia". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 208. e.T135957919A135957921. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T135957919A135957921.en.
  2. ^ a b c "Amelanchier alnifolia". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  3. ^ Schorger, A.W. 1955. The Passenger Pigeon; its natural history and extinction. The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Amelanchier alnifolia". Plants of British Columbia. Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 19 October 2007.
  5. ^ a b c d "Amelanchier alnifolia". Jepson Flora.
  6. ^ Dyrness, C. T.; Acker, S. A. (2010). "Ecology of Common Understory Plants in Northwestern Oregon and Southwestern Washington Forests" (PDF). H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, Oregon State University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  7. ^ a b Adam Augustyn (2021). "Saskatoon". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 12 September 2021.
  8. ^ Jacobson, Arthur Lee (1996). North American Landscape Trees. Berkeley, CA USA: Ten Speed Press. p. 74. ISBN 0-89815-813-3. Records: 42' x 3'3" x 43', Beacon Rock State Park, WA (1993); 27' x 3'9" x 22', Douglas County, OR (1975)
  9. ^ a b Little, Elbert L. (1994) [1980]. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Western Region (Chanticleer Press ed.). Knopf. pp. 443–44. ISBN 0394507614.
  10. ^ Fagan, Damian (2019). Wildflowers of Oregon: A Field Guide to Over 400 Wildflowers, Trees, and Shrubs of the Coast, Cascades, and High Desert. Guilford, CT: FalconGuides. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-4930-3633-2. OCLC 1073035766.
  11. ^ Taylor, Ronald J. (1994) [1992]. Sagebrush Country: A Wildflower Sanctuary (rev. ed.). Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Pub. Co. p. 126. ISBN 0-87842-280-3. OCLC 25708726.
  12. ^ The Xerces Society (2016), Gardening for Butterflies: How You Can Attract and Protect Beautiful, Beneficial Insects, Timber Press.
  13. ^ University of Maine: Amelanchier list of taxa
  14. ^ "Amelanchier alnifolia var. alnifolia". University of Maine.
  15. ^ "Amelanchier alnifolia var. pumila". Jepson Flora.
  16. ^ "Amelanchier alnifolia var. pumila". University of Maine. Archived from the original on 31 March 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
  17. ^ "Amelanchier alnifolia var. semiintegrifolia". Jepson Flora.
  18. ^ "Amelanchier alnifolia var. semiintegrifolia". University of Maine.
  19. ^ a b "Introduction to Saskatoons". Archived from the original on 12 December 2008. Retrieved 6 January 2008.
  20. ^ a b St-Pierre, R. G. "Growing Saskatoons – A Manual For Orchardists". Archived from the original on 17 March 2008. Retrieved 28 May 2006.
  21. ^ a b c d e f Mazza, G. (2005). "Compositional and Functional Properties of Saskatoon Berry and Blueberry". International Journal of Fruit Science. 5 (3): 101–120. doi:10.1300/J492v05n03_10. ISSN 1553-8362. S2CID 85691882.
  22. ^ Mazza, G; Davidson, CG (1993). "Saskatoon berry: A fruit crop for the prairies". In Janick, J.; Simon, J.E. (eds.). New crops. New York: Wiley. pp. 516–519.
  23. ^ "Saskatoon Berries". Government of Manitoba – Ministry of Agriculture. Archived from the original on 2 October 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  24. ^ "Britain plucks saskatoon berries from store shelves". CBC News. 7 July 2004. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  25. ^ a b "Juneberries – Amelanchier alnifolia". Carrington REC. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  26. ^ Ozga; Saeed, A; Wismer, W; Reinecke, DM (2007). "Characterization of cyanidin- and quercetin-derived flavonoids and other phenolics in mature saskatoon fruits (Amelanchier alnifolia Nutt.)". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 55 (25): 10414–24. doi:10.1021/jf072949b. PMID 17994693.
  27. ^ Hosseinian; Beta, T (2007). "Saskatoon and wild blueberries have higher anthocyanin contents than other Manitoba berries". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 55 (26): 10832–8. doi:10.1021/jf072529m. PMID 18052240.
  28. ^ Bakowska-barczak; Marianchuk, M; Kolodziejczyk, P (2007). "Survey of bioactive components in Western Canadian berries". Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 85 (11): 1139–52. doi:10.1139/y07-102. PMID 18066116.

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