Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Saskatoon - Amelanchier alnifolia



"Amelanchier alnifolia semiintegrifolia is a deciduous Shrub growing to 3 m (9ft 10in) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 2 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen from Jun to July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil." [PFAF]

General: "Shrub or rarely a small tree, 1-6 (10) m tall; stems slender, smooth; twigs smooth, reddish-brown; bark greyish to red-brown; sometimes spreading by rhizomes or stolons and forming dense colonies." [IFBC-E-flora]
Leaves: "Alternate, deciduous, oval to oblong-elliptic or nearly round, saw-toothed mostly on top half but sometimes nearly entire, broadly rounded to somewhat squared-off at the tip, smooth to variously hairy at least below; blades 2-5 cm long, stalks 0.5-2 cm long." [IFBC-E-flora]
Flowers: "Inflorescences short, drooping to erect, leafy or bracted, terminal racemes at the ends of branches; flowers 3 to 20, on slender ascending stalks; corollas white, the petals 5, linear to lanceolate, 6-25 mm long; calyces 5-lobed, the lobes lance-triangular, 1-5 mm long, the hypanthium 1-2 mm long; ovaries inferior, smooth or hairy on top; stamens about 20." [IFBC-E-flora]
Fruits: "Berry-like pomes (like miniature apples), crowned with the persistent calyx, globe- to egg-shaped, 5-14 mm long, dull red initially, becoming purple to nearly black, with a white bloom." [IFBC-E-flora]
Status: Native [E-flora]

Identification and Taxonomic Notes
"Amelanchier cusickii flowers 10 to 15 days before A. alnifolia, which suggests that these two are genetically distinct. G. N. Jones (1946) noted that A. alnifolia and A. cusickii frequently grow together but that there is “no evidence of hybridization.” It should be noted that Jones discounted hybridization in the genus, even denying hybrid status to A. x neglecta." - Campbell & Doucette [E-flora]

Notes: Four intergrading varieties occur in BC:

1. Petals less than 12 mm long; tops of ovaries strongly hairy.
2. Flowers generally with 4 styles; leaves entire or with a few tiny teeth near tips................. var. humptulipensis (G.N. Jones) C.L. Hitchc.
2. Flowers generally with 5 styles; leaves usually strongly toothed on upper half..................... var. alnifolia
1. Petals over 12 mm long; tops of ovaries hairy or smooth.
3. Petals generally less than 16 mm long and 4 mm wide; calyx lobes averaging less than 3 mm long; top of ovary woolly....................var. semiintegrifolia (Hook.) C.L. Hitchc.
3. Petals generally greater than 16 mm long and up to 8.5 mm wide; calyx lobes averaging more than 3 mm long; top of ovary smooth to moderately hairy...................... var. cusickii (Fern.) C.L. Hitchc. [IFBC-E-flora]

USDA Flower Colour: White
USDA Blooming Period: Early Summer
USDA Fruit/Seed characteristics:

Colour: Red
Present from Summer to Fall[USDA-E-flora]

Amelanchier alnifolia. non Nutt. A. florida. A. oxyodon [PFAF]
Amelanchier alnifolia var. pumila (Torr. & A. Gray) C.K. Schneid. [E-flora]
Amelanchier basalticola Piper [E-flora]
Amelanchier cuneata Piper [E-flora]
Amelanchier glabra Greene [E-flora]
Amelanchier polycarpa Greene [E-flora]

Ecological Indicator Information
"A shade-tolerant to shade-intolerant, submontane to montane, North American deciduous shrub distributed equally in the Pacific, Cordilleran, and Central regions. Occurs on moderately dry to fresh, nitrogen-medium soils within boreal, cool temperate, cool semiarid, and cool mesothermal climates. Its occurrence increases with increasing continentality, and decreases with increasing precipitation and elevation. Common to scattered in clearings and open-canopy Douglas-fir and lodgepole pine stands on water-shedding sites. Characteristic of young seral forests on disturbed sites."[IFBC-E-flora]

Habitat / Range
"Dry to mesic, open rocky slopes, bluffs, gullies, thickets, forest margins and open forests in the lowland to subalpine zones; common throughout BC, especially in C and S BC, east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains; N to AK, E to AB and S to CA, NE, ND, CO and AZ." [IFBC-E-flora] "In Canada, the species is found in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, North West Territories and Nunavut." [EMNMPV.4]
"THIS is a common shrub of the Northwest, ranging from western Ontario to British Columbia, south to Nebraska, Colorado, and California." [EWP] "Serviceberry prefers a moderate amount of sunlight and can be found in open areas, in open woods (alder or aspen), on hillsides, in burn or logged areas east of the Cascades, and from sea level to mid-mountain altitudes." [Krumm PNBB]


"For mature cattle, the lethal dose of hydrogen cyanide is 2-4 mg/kg body weight. The cyanogenic glycoside in Saskatoon is prunasin. Saskatoon leaves or twigs can contain as much as 3% prunasin which is equivalent to a content of 0.27% hydrogen cyanide on a dry matter basis. Therefore 3 kg of fresh leaves or 1.2 kg of fresh twigs can be enough to kill a 500-kg Stock-poisoning Plants of Western Canada - 2008 10 (1100-lb) animal." [Majak SPPWC]

Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"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[257]. It is little used in modern herbalism" [PFAF]


100g (fresh wt.) of the berries contains 90kcal of food energy, 76g water, 0.7g protein, 1.2g fat, 21.4g carbs, 6.4g crude fiber, 0.7g ash, <0.01 mg Thiamine, <0.01 mg Riboflavin, 0.3 mg Niacin, 15.7 mg Vit. C, 86 RE Vit. A, 69mg Calcium, 40mg Phosphorus, 0.6mg Sodium, 244mg Potassium, 26mg Magnesium, 0.4mg Copper, 0.4mg Zinc, 0.5mg Iron, and 2.2mg Manganese. [Turner, Kuhnlein]


"Prefers a rich loamy soil in a sunny position or semi-shade[1, 200] but thrives in any soil that is not too dry or water-logged[11]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Plants are hardy to about -35oc[160]. 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 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[K]. The main draw-back to this genus is that birds adore the fruit and will often completely strip a tree before it is fully ripe[K]. This species loses its leaves early in the autumn, especially in dry years[K]. Closely related to, and included as a sub-species of A. alnifolia by most botanists. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[200]. Grafting onto seedlings of A. lamarckii or Sorbus aucuparia is sometimes practised in order to avoid the potential problem of hybridizing[1]." [PFAF] "It is frost resistant to −20oC. It prefers a rich, well-drained loamy soil in but will grow in any sandy or clayey soil that is not water-logged or too dry. It is quite drought tolerant and is also salt tolerant. It thrives in a sunny position or semi-shade."[EMNMPV.4]

Disease: "Amelanchier alnifolia (Saskatoon berries tree) is an important fruit shrub to the economy of the Canadian prairies and is yearly threatened by Entomosporium leaf and berry spots." [Quideau RAPR]


"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[78, 80]. 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[78]. 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." [PFAF] "...100 kg of serviceberries (Amelanchier alnifolia) yields only 3 kg of clean seed" [McKell BUS] "A seed crop is produced every three to five years and should be collected in late summer. The best method of collection is to knock the fruit onto a canvas or directly into hoppers. Extract seeds by macerating in water and washing over screens and clean by drying and rubbing through the screen, then running through a fanning mill. Store seeds dry in a sealed container at 5oC for no more than five years (Brinkman 1974)." [PPNWNP]

"Vegetative: Saskatoon serviceberry can be vegetatively propagated by both root cuttings and division. Take root cuttings during the dormant season, optimally December to February. Take one-year-old, fleshy roots the diameter of a pencil, from as close to the crown of the plant as possible. Cut roots to 5 cm in length with a horizontal cut at the proximal end and a slanted cut at the distal end. Treat cuttings with a fungicide before sticking vertically in rows, 5 cm apart, with the proximal end at soil level, and covered with 1.5 cm of perlite. Division is best if done in early spring. Remove suckers by cutting with a sharp spade. Wash off excess soil. Cut back the stem and trim the root system. Plant the division in pots, beds, or open ground. Adequate irrigation is required to prevent the roots from drying out (Macdonald 1986)." [PPNWNP]

Use of Related Sp.

"Amelanchier ovalis (Snowy mespilus); Rosaceae—C S Europe; fruits eaten raw." [ETWP]


  1. Duke -, Accessed Dec 23, 2014
  2. E-flora -, Accessed Aug 5, 2017 (Images taken from an earlier date)
  3. PFAF - Accessed March 31, 2015

Page last modified on Thursday, June 11, 2020 6:06 AM