By Mara Trushell
Spring migrant calls and local breeding birds’ song fill the air this time of year. Birds are only one of many organisms who are responding to spring in a way that can overwhelm our senses, and many are just as enjoyable as their songs. When hiking along scrubby slopes or ridges, woodland stream banks, or canyons, keep out a close eye for Amelanchier utahensis (Utah Serviceberry, Juneberry, Shadbush, or Utah Shadberry). This is when it’s at its formal best.
This relatively large but sparsely branching bush is often found hiding under the dappled shade of oaks or ashes or concealed among vibrant yellow New Mexico olive flowers, a beautiful and fragrant hop tree, or delicate clusters of the black cherry flowers. Amelanchier utahensis produces clusters of three to six flowers which transform this bush into a dappled array of fresh vibrant green leaves among white flowers during April and May. The five narrow, widely spread petals don’t overlap and the anthers appear within a crown-like formation. The fragrance it emits has been described as unpleasant, so you can stick to enjoying these flowers visually.
Amelanchier utahensis is a common shrub found between 2,000-7,000 feet across the country. The bush is an important resource for wildlife because it provides supple leaves for deer and other browsing ungulates to enjoy throughout the year. In addition, as spring transitions into summer, it develops dark purplish-black, apple-like fruits. These are only partially hidden by the simple, slightly toothed ovate leaves. Songbirds such as the evasive Cedar Waxwings and robins, grosbeaks, and orioles compete with small mammals for this fleshy fruit feast.
Mara Trushell is a local natural science enthusiast.