Running Serviceberry

Amelanchier stolonifera

Description & Overview

Running Serviceberry is a low-maintenance and adaptable shrub that’s great for natural areas and native gardens. Fruits are a boon to wildlife and people alike. With its upright spreading habit, showy blooms and vibrant fall color, this is a Wisconsin native that provides interest in every season. May also be known as Dwarf Serviceberry, Dwarf Shadbush, and Thicket Shadbush. Botanical name was formerly known as Amelanchier spicata.


Core Characteristics

Mature Height: 5 feet
Mature Spread: 10 feet
Growth Rate: Slow
Growth Form: Small thicket-forming shrub with upright stems
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Site Requirements: Moist, well-drained soil. Will tolerate alkaline and clay soils
Flower: Showy <1” white flowers before leaves emerge
Bloom Period: Early May
Foliage: 1-3” medium green, simple, alternate oval leaves without teeth on lower edges
Fall Color: Variable. Yellow or orange
Fruit Notes: 3/8” black-purple edible fruits in late summer

Suggested Uses:

Due to its thick, clumping habit, this shrub is ideal for creating a barrier hedge, a bonus of which will be the armloads of blueberry-like fruits that can be eaten fresh, made into jams, or baked into pies. A great native understory plant, use Running Serviceberry in woodland garden settings or naturalized areas to attract wildlife. This shrub will provide four seasons of interest with flowers, fruit, fall color, and winter form! It can also be utilized for stabilizing soil on banks.

Salable #2 container Running Serviceberry. Pictures taken late May, after flower with new fruits forming.

Wildlife Value:

The white flowers will attract bees and other pollinators to your garden. Over 40 species of birds will be flocking to the shrub when the fruits are ripe in summer. Rabbits, squirrels, bears, deer, and foxes will also be tempted to snag a juicy treat from its branches.

Maintenance Tips:

Running Serviceberry grows best naturally, with little pruning needed. If necessary, prune in late winter to get rid of dead or crossing branches.

Pests/Problems:

This Amelanchier has no serious pest problems. Netting may be useful if you’re trying to protect the fruits from birds to eat them youself.

Leaf Lore:

The alternative name “shadbush” refers to the historical tendency of Amelanchier to bloom at the same time as when American Shad (Alosa sapidissima) swim upriver to spawn.

Tribes native to the northern Great Plains would mix serviceberries together with bison meat and stuff into the animal’s intestine to create a sausage-like food called pemmican.

Flowers on the same plant bloom at the same time, but fruits will vary in stages of ripening having fruits in different stages of ripeness on the same plant. Both are evolutionary adaptations. Blooming at once maximizes odds of attracting pollinators while a long ripening season maximizes dispersal of seed via birds.

Companion Plants:

Combine with other wildlife-friendly naturalizing shrubs such as American Plum (Prunus americana) and Downy Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum rafinesquianum). Pair with Redosier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) to maximize winter interest while providing an abundance of summer fruit for birds. Adding a white blooming crabapple such as Firebird® Crabapple (Malus sargentii ‘Select A’) or Sugar Tyme® Crabapple would enhance the bloom effect and extend the birding season into fall and winter.