Juneberries (Serviceberries) on Tree, Woodland Walk, Philadelphia

In Albums: fruit Philadelphia edible landscaping plants

A juneberry bush with rounded leaves, and numerous blueberry-shaped berries, of varying colors from greenish white to pinks and deep purples

May 29th, 2011, by Alex Zorach

These fruit are called juneberries or serviceberries. The first name reflects the fact that, in much of the U.S., they tend to come ripe somewhere around the beginning of June. In Philadelphia, these fruit were beginning to ripen just before the beginning of June, but their peak came about a week later.

This tree is planted at the beginning of the Woodland Walk in West Philadelphia, right at the east end of Baltimore avenue, on the edge of the University of Pennsylvania's campus. Juneberries are a popular landscape plant, however, and can be found all throughout Philadelphia as a street tree. They sometimes grow as a bush, but are often pruned into a single-trunk, tree-like shape. The branches are almost always low enough that the fruit are easy to pick.

I have noticed that people frequently stop to ask me what I'm picking when I am picking and eating these fruit. The question I am asked in most cases is: "Are you sure these are not poisonous?" This question strikes me as a bit odd. I understand that there are poisonous fruit out there, but presumably, if I did not know that these fruit were edible, I would not be eating them. Furthermore, people in our society seem to rarely question whether or not their food is safe or healthy when they buy it at a store or are served it in a restaurant, and it seems rather irrational that people place so much trust in the industrial system that produces our food, but they are so skeptical of foods growing naturally in the natural environment, whole, natural foods on a plant where you can actually see where the food comes from.

I hope I can encourage people to appreciate and eat these berries, as they are abundant, and also to plant them, as they are delicious.