Serviceberry.jpg

SERVICEBERRY Amelanchier arborea

The Psalmist led the congregation of Israel to praise God for the beauty He provided in the fields, on the ridges and in the forests. In Psalms 65:10 we read, “You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops.” Oh, what imagery: God softens it and blesses it. Whenever we have suffered an extended period of rain, two or three days of sun cause us to say, “Thank you, Lord.”

Today we focus on a shrub or small tree that blooms in early spring. Its blossoms resemble multiple strands of soft yarn. There is a gentleness in their softness that also reminds me of the Psalmist’s words, “you soften it with showers.”

SERVICEBERRY Amelanchier arboreaOther names for the serviceberry include shadbush and Juneberry. Some old-timers pronounce the name “sarvis berry.” The serviceberry on my former property normally bloomed around the time that Easter occurred each year. However, with an early warm spell it may bloom in early March. The name “shadbush” was given to this shrub because it blooms when the shad (fish) swim upstream.

The blooms consist of four wiggly white petals as pictured. The blossom may be as large as 1 1/2 inches in diameter and the petals hang down from 1 to 1 1/2 inches. The shrub may grow to about 30 feet, but most that I’ve seen are about 20 feet. The serviceberry is usually found in hardwood groves, rarely in pine forests.

The fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) is sometimes mistaken for the serviceberry. The first difference is that the fringe tree petals are three to five times longer than the serviceberry petals. Second, the serviceberry blossoms are scattered along the branches and twigs, whereas the fringe tree blossoms are heavily clustered toward the ends of the branches and twigs.

The name “Juneberry,” given to this shrub, is associated with the ripening of its fruit. One reference notes that the fruit is sweeter than the wild blueberry though it is smaller. Humans rarely get to taste them because raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels and songbirds regard them as a delicacy and constantly monitor their ripeness.

May this new year bring you many occasions of solitude and spiritual renewal that reminds you of the psalmists words, “you soften it with showers and bless its crops.”

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Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit The Sketching Pad in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.

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