What About Juneberries?
POSTED IN For Consumers, For Growers, For Members ON 7/14/2014
This morning’s NPR Morning Edition story “Saskawhat: A Novel Berry From Canada Takes Root On Michigan Farms” has been feeding a discussion about the the name(s) of the fruit of Amelanchier alnifolia, which this site often calls saskatoons, but describes in the “About Saskatoons” tab as having several common names, including Juneberries.
As far as this author is concerned, this fruit tastes great regardless of the label one affixes to it.
That said, in an effort to address the various voices responding to the NPR story filed by Peter Payette of Interlochen Public Radio, I offer the following observations.
Wikipedia identifies 15 species of Amelanchier found in North America:
- Amelanchier alnifolia – Saskatoon serviceberry, alder-leaved shadbush, saskatoon, saskatoon berry, amélanchier à feuilles d’aulne
- Amelanchier amabilis – Lovely shadbush, amélanchier gracieux
- Amelanchier arborea – Downy shadbush
- Amelanchier australis –
- Amelanchier bartramiana – Mountain shadbush, amélanchier de Bartram
- Amelanchier canadensis – Eastern shadbush, amélanchier du Canada
- Amelanchier humilis – Low shadbush, amélanchier bas
- Amelanchier interior – Wiegand’s shadbush, amélanchier de l’intérieur
- Amelanchier laevis – Smooth shadbush, amélanchier glabre
- Amelanchier nantucketensis – Nantucket serviceberry
- Amelanchier ovalis – Snowy Mespilus
- Amelanchier sanguinea – Red-twigged shadbush, amélanchier sanguin
- Amelanchier sinica – Chinese Serviceberry
- Amelanchier spicata – Thicket shadbush, amélanchier en épis
- Amelanchier utahensis – Utah serviceberry
The same source notes that another species “Amelanchier lamarckii” is common in Europe. Botanists speculate that this European species originally came from Canada, but is not found there, in the wild.
Another name is Sarvisberry, similar to Serviceberry.
One might note that particular common names can be used for a variety of species, indicating that the common names are not necessarily species specific.
The species currently propogated in Northern Michigan, and covered in the NPR story, is Amelanchier alnifolia. The common name saskatoon berry is specific to Amelanchier alnifolia. On a different Wikipedia page, the following list of names are shown for Amelanchier alnifolia: saskatoon, Pacific serviceberry, western serviceberry, alder-leaf shadbush, dwarf shadbush, chuckley pear, or western juneberry, and pigeon berry. This list includes some names shown above, and some others as well.
Within the species Amelanchier alnifolia there are also cultivars, with variations in characteristics, allowing growers to choose what they perceive to be more desirable features such as soil and temperature compatibility as well as flavor and texture preferences. Cultivars affect many of us on a daily basis, from grocery store options of many fruits and vegetable to the colors or your favorite flowers and the shapes of leaves of bushes and trees. Some of the cultivars being harvested commercially in Michigan include: Thiessen, JB-30, Northline, Martin, and Smoky. These cultivars are not native to Michigan, though various Amelanchier species do grow wild, and are used in landscaping, in Michigan. Because cultivars represent preferences, there is no one right answer for everyone.
While not all environments can grow the fruit of Amelanchier alnifolia (as they require a specific number of days of below freezing weather – 90, I believe), provinces and states that grow Amelanchier alnifolia include:
o Alberta (more commonly called saskatoons)
o British Columbia (more commonly called saskatoons)
o Manitoba (more commonly called saskatoons)
o Nova Scotia (more commonly called saskatoons)
o Ontario (more commonly called saskatoons)
o Saskatchewan (more commonly called saskatoons)
The United States of America:
o Idaho (more commonly called saskatoons)
o Maine (more commonly called juneberries)
o Massachusetts (more commonly called juneberries)
o Michigan (more commonly called saskatoons)
o Minnesota (more commonly called juneberries)
o Montana (a variety of names)
o New Hampshire
o New York (more commonly called juneberries)
o North Dakota (more commonly called juneberries)
In many locations there may be some confusion about the season of ripe fruit. In Michigan, for instance, the fruit ripens in July, but is not called Julyberry. In other locations, such as New York, the fruit can ripen in June, making Juneberry a very accurate description.
We continue to work on learning more about the variations in each of these locations, and welcome information from readers and other sources.