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The Umstead Coalition 
Celebrating Umstead State Park since 1934!


05/16/2023 10:02 AM | Anonymous

 So, I have a new obsession. It’s bad.  I’ve resorted to walking up to visitors at the park and sharing my obsession with them because all of my coworkers at the Visitors Center are pretty much tired of me talking about it all the time. I have no one else to tell, so I figured I’d share it with you. Oh yea, and because I’m a park ranger, the thing I’m obsessed with is a tree – or to be more precise, the fruit of this tree.


Every March, in a sea of brown and gray bark in the forest, one of the first blooming trees stands out like a bright white lighthouse in a hazy, fog ridden ocean. Its vivacious and numerous white flowers illuminating the dreariness of late winter as if to say, “Don’t worry, spring is coming soon”.  Of course, I am talking about trees in the Amelanchier family or a tree/shrub more commonly known as serviceberry. The problem with common names, like with many other plants, is that different people in different places have different names for the same plant. This tree and its berries are a shining example of this problem. Juneberry, serviceberry, saskatoon berry, shadwood, sarvisberry, sugarplum, wild-plum, or even chukley pear…just to name a few. I have always known the tree to be called serviceberry, so for the remainder of the post, that is what I’ll refer to it too (sorry to all of you chuckley pear fans out there).

By early May, those beautiful white flowers that are heavily visited by all kinds of pollen seeking insects have long wilted and fruits are abound. The tree becomes loaded with first green, then pink, then nearly purple berries that resemble blueberries in their size and shape. Not necessarily dripping from every branch, but loaded down enough that people who first learn about the tree are genuinely impressed with the volume of fruit on it. The best part about these berries are that they’re edible…and delicious. Tasting like a cross between a blueberry and a blackberry, the serviceberry turns your fingers somewhat purple but not as bad as other fruits like red mulberries. 

Serviceberry tree berriesThere’s a few great things about serviceberries. The tree is native to our area, only one tree is needed for pollination, they are well behaved and function well as an ornamental tree for landscaping uses, and a single 10-foot tree can produce enough fruit to keep a family’s palate content for the month of May. Plant more than one and you might be looking at making jam or preserves from the berries or even freezing them for smoothies throughout the summer (my favorite option). The berries contain higher levels of iron, manganese, fiber, and calcium than blueberries and are high in polyphenol antioxidants. An all-around good choice.

So, the next time you’re thinking about planting another red maple tree or some non-native crepe myrtle in your yard, consider the humble serviceberry to provide a splash of spring color that also benefits wildlife. It will not only provide a welcome sign of life after winter, but also liven up your tastebuds. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I see a family getting out of their minivan right in front of the serviceberry tree. I have four new people to share my obsession with. 

- Ranger Nick Dioguardi

The Umstead Coalition

We are a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the natural integrity of William B. Umstead State Park and the Richland Creek Corridor.


The Umstead Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.