Utah serviceberry (Amelanchier utahensis) growing near the Truckee River in Farad, CA. May 2015. Photo: Kelsey McCutcheon.
Common along certain portions of the Truckee River, Utah serviceberry are medium-sized shrubs that grow 3 – 15 feet tall. They are covered in white flowers in the springtime, which turn to fruit during summer. Serviceberry fruit are sweet, edible, and can be made into jams or cooked any way you like ‘em. They look like blueberries, and share much of the nutritional value – high in antioxidants (Mozingo, 1987). Native Americans ate the fruit fresh, cooked or dried, and also used it to create a violet-colored dye. The inner bark could be boiled and used to treat snow-blindness (Vizgirdas & Vizgirdas 2006). The leaves and berries are eaten by birds and mammals, including mule deer (Zlatnik, 1999).
Similar species: Smooth serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) has smooth, hairless leaves and may be found along upper elevation reaches of the Truckee River, near Lake Tahoe; The leaves of Utah serviceberry are covered in very tiny hairs (Graf 1999). If you see either type of serviceberry, please record an observation!
Graf, M. (1999). Plants of the Tahoe Basin. Berkeley, CA: California Native Plant Society Press.
Mozingo, H. N. (1987). Shrubs of the Great Basin: A Natural History. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press.
USDA. (2015). Amelanchier utahensis. USDA Plants Database. Available: http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=AMUT. [2015, May 23].
Vizgirdas, R. S., & Rey-Visgirdas, E. M. (2006). Wild Plants of the Sierra Nevada. Reno: University of Nevada Press.
Zlatnik, Elena. 1999. Amelanchier utahensis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [2015, May 23].