Foraging Juneberry (Amelanchier lamarckii) Rosaceae family.

UK guide to foraging Juneberry. Learn to identify, then discover its food, medicine, and other uses.

For those of you living in rural areas, foraging Juneberry might well be something you haven’t done before. This small tree / shrub is a plant that you will find much more in towns and cities, where it is valued as an amenity plant in parks and gardens.

This is definitely one of the lesser-known Rose family fruiting trees. Now is the time to find it in its full spring splendour, and to get to know this beautiful tree. Before you know it, there will be exquisite cherry / almond tasting berries to pick.

What’s in a name?

This plant is one of around 20 in the genus Amelanchier. As you can guess from its common name, the juneberry is a tree that usually bears fruit ready to pick in and around mid summer solstice.

The generic part of the scientific name Amelanchier is adapted from the French for ‘medlar’ – ‘Amelancier’. The fruit-bearing medlar tree (Mespilus germanica) is a close relative.

The specific part of the name lamarckii is in honour of the French naturalist, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744 – 1829).

Our English common name Juneberry points to the month when the juicy berries begin to be ripe enough for harvesting. In North America the plant is often called saskatoon, or shadbush.

Botanical description

A few of the following technical terms may be new to you. If so, then simply pop over to our foragers glossary for help.

Juneberry is a relatively small tree or shrub that will reach a maximum height of 6 – 10 metres.

Leaves:  The leaves are easily recognised. They are obovate to oblong-shaped, with a small pointy tip. Some leaves appear in small groups from buds that also contain the flowers. Foliage also appears from buds without flowers.

The changeable colours of jJuneberry leaves in late April
The changeable colours of Juneberry leaves in late April.

The leaves provide changeable interest during spring and autumn. Firstly by appearing a rich bronze colour in the spring, then turning grey-green in the summer before developing red – purple tones in the autumn during senescence.

Downy hairs cover the leaves, which are folded and creased when young.
Silky hairs cover the undersides of juneberry’s bronze new leaves.

Like many rose plants, the leaves are quite creased and folded when very young. The white silky hairs on the leaf undersides soon go. They are hairless above.

Juneberry in bloom during mid April makes for a stunning display, hence another common name - 'snowy mespilus'.
Juneberry in bloom during mid April makes for a stunning display.

The leaf margins are serrate with anywhere from 17-36 teeth each side.

Petiole: From 1 – 3.5 cm. They can often be around half the size of the leaf.

Roots: This plant has a shallow root system.

Twigs: These are a red-brown colour and sparsley dotted with lenticels. The twigs are quite thin, around 3 – 4 mm diameter. They are never thorny.

Buds: The buds are approximately 6 – 10 mm, alternately spaced, and chestnut brown to purple-ish coloured.

Bark: Smooth with slightly wavering shallow lines running down the branches and main trunk.

Juneberry branches and trunks are brown with wavy lines
Juneberry branches and trunks are brown with wavy lines.

Mature bark develops small flaky-looking fissures towards the base.

Juneberry trunks can throw up suckers from the base, and eventually develop narrow fissures.
Juneberry trunks can throw up suckers from the base, and eventually develop narrow fissures.

Flowers: Quite large, approximately 35 – 40 mm diameter. Each bloom has a hairy, five-pointed, purple-tinged green calyx. Their five, narrow, oblong white petals are often bent or curved, producing a somewhat untidy look about them.

The five-lobed stigma surrounded by a mass of stamens
The flowers have a five-lobed stigma surrounded by numerous stamens.

The centre of the flower has a single five-part stigma surrounded by a number of creamy white-tipped stamens.

Flowering season: The flowers open en massé during April, producing a stunning display.

Juneberry in full flower enjoying April's sunshine at St Peters church yard, Wolvercote.
Juneberry in full flower at St Peter’s church yard, Wolvercote.

Fruits: In small clusters towards the tips of the twigs. The dark purple pome fruits help tell us that this plant is in the apple ‘tribe’.

The ‘berries’ are generaĺly seen with the remains of the 5-pointed calyx visible on the fruit, like apples. The fruits each contain between 4 – 10 seeds.

Habitats: The plant was first brought here around the mid 18th century. It was recorded naturalised in the wild here a century later. It prefers sandy soils and open woodland, occurring within oak and birch woods.

This map from the BSBI shows the extent of its naturalisation here in the UK, and likely areas to look in when foraging Juneberry. This small tree is still mostly found as a planted specimen, although bird sown plants are increasingly found.

Parts used: Fruits

Edible uses: The fruits are perfect for snacking straight off the tree. They are ideal for baking, jamming, and infusing into booze, most perfectly into gin.

Medicinal uses: The juice of the fruits are a mild laxative and tonic. A decoction of the inner bark has historically been used in North America to treat sore eyes. Either from excessive exposure to the sun or from snow blindness.

The fruits are reportedly high in both vitamins and trace elements, as well as being rich in various health-boosting polyphenols and antioxidants. As we know, eating a rainbow coloured diet is a sure-fire way of getting the essential phyto nutrients our body needs to stay healthy and ward off illness.

Harvesting: The berries are ripe towards the end of June and beginning of July. When you are thinking of going out foraging Juneberry, its worth being aware that birds tend to get to the plant before us, just as the fruits begin to turn their darker shades. As ever, there are always other foragers to watch out for that want your harvest!

Other notes: This plant is now being grown commercially in the famous fruit growing area of Worcestershire

If you like this article and want to learn more about identifying our wild edible plants then simply head over to my how to identify plants in a day article.

This fast track article, in two parts, presents ten of the most important plant families for foragers in Britain to get to know.

If you have any questions about Britain’s wild plants, then do not hesitate to contact me. Happy foraging!

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