Native Service Berry, and Invasive Wineberry

March 29, 2024

By Claire Hartl Leonardi

Native Species: Serviceberry – Amelanchier spp.

Serviceberry in bloom. Photo Credit: NativeNYGardens.com

Serviceberry. Juneberry. Shadbush. Saskatoon. There are many common names for shrubs in the genus Amelanchier. Whichever name you call it, serviceberry is one of the first shrubs to bloom in the spring. It is a member of the Rose family, and blooms consist of white flowers with 5 petals. The names come from their early spring blooms: serviceberry, when the ground defrosted and funeral services could be held; shadbush, because blooms often coincide with shad spawning runs; and juneberry because berries often ripen in June. As for Saskatoon, I’ve never heard of that name before, but it’s a fun name and seems like a common name other people may use.

Serviceberry leaves and berries. Photo Credit: GreenThumbsGarden.com

The berries are bright red which then become a deep maroon, purple, and navy. They look and taste similar to blueberries, though they are more closely related to apples and pears. These edible berries are a favorite of birds in the late spring to early summer. Native Americans often mixed the dried berries with buffalo meat to make pemmican, a staple that carried them through long winters.  When not flowering or in fruit, Amelanchier can be pretty non-descript and hard to identify and are usually not identified down to the species level. There are several different species of serviceberry, all of which are native to New York.

 

Invasive: Wineberry – Rubus phoenicolasius

Wineberry berries and leaves. Photo Credit: W.S. Justice, iNaturalist

 

Wineberry is an invasive raspberry species in New York, which is native to China, Japan, and Korea. This shrub is also a member of the Rose family. Wineberry was introduced in the late 19th century when it was brought over to North America to use as breeding stock in raspberry production. Wineberry often grows in dense thickets which can be difficult to traverse due to its abundant thorns. This dense growth also tends to shade out native plants. Wineberry can be distinguished from other wild raspberry species by the presence of its red hairy stems lined with thorns and bright red fruits. Other native raspberries can turn dark maroon, purple, or black, but wineberries generally remain a bright red color. Wineberry fruits in early summer and these fruits are both edible and delicious! Foraging for wineberry can be a tasty treat that also helps to prevent the spread of invasive species.

Wineberry stem. Photo Credit: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org