Our native understory trees

Eastern serviceberry
(Amelanchier canadensis)
 ©Janet Allen Eastern serviceberry

Serviceberry is a wonderful three-season plant. We have three eastern serviceberries (aka shadbush) that provide many berries for birds early in the season. In fact, they're sometimes called "Juneberries." Robins, catbirds, chickadees, and cardinals especially like them.

It has beautiful flowers in the spring and gorgeous fall color.

Wildlife: Important plant for birds
** SPECIAL VALUE TO NATIVE BEES **
** SUPPORTS CONSERVATION BIOLOGICAL CONTROL **
More info from Wildflower Center

Eastern serviceberry
(Amelanchier canadensis)
 ©Janet Allen Eastern serviceberry

Eastern serviceberry can get to be quite tall, which was probably why the 'Glenform' cultivar (see the next photo) was selected. But the species has a lot more habitat value.

Serviceberry 'Glenform'
(Amelanchier canadensis)
 ©Janet Allen Eastern serviceberry

This is a cultivar called 'Glenform'. I wouldn't recommend it, though, since my plant produces very few berries. This is frustrating because I bought it for the berries! 'Glenform,' is shorter than the species, which is the only "advantage" I can see, but if I wanted a smaller shrub, I simply could have just selected a naturally-smaller shrub. We've since cut it down.

Apple serviceberry
(Amelanchier x grandiflora)
 ©Janet Allen Apple serviceberry

Apple serviceberry is a naturally-occurring hybrid between A. arborea and A. laevis. As the botanic name indicates, it does have larger flowers. Unfortunately, I put it in a location where I assumed it would take the place of our cranberrybush viburnum, which appeared to be dying at the "hands" of the viburnum leaf beetle. The viburnum recovered, however, and now our apple serviceberry is being squeezed into a too-small place. I'm gradually eliminating some other shrubs and pruning back the viburnum, so it, too, can grow. It's supposed to have delicious fruits for people, too. When it gets a little larger, I'll again taste one, but I'm not holding out much hope. I don't care for the seedy berries the other serviceberries seem to have.

Smooth serviceberry
(Amelanchier laevis)
 ©Janet Allen Smooth serviceberry

Smooth serviceberry (aka Allegheny) is generally considered to be a nicer tree for a home landscape than its close relative downy serviceberry (A. arborea). It was fairly small when we planted it, but it's growing nicely, especially after some other competing trees were cut down. Its shape was affected by the competition (the cranberry viburnum), but I hope it will fill out on that side in a few years now that its airspace is open.

Wildlife: Food for birds, small mammals
** SPECIAL VALUE TO NATIVE BEES **
More info from Wildflower Center

Redbud
(Cercis canadensis)
 ©Janet Allen Redbud tree

Redbud is beautiful in the spring, and it provides an early source of nectar. But this isn't one of the trees that supports a lot of insects otherwise. It also has the very annoying habit of creating LOTS of volunteer seedlings. At this point, this particular tree (in the front yard) has some problems, and we're planning to gradually cut it down. (We need to do it gradually since it provides the shade for our woodland garden underneath.) We're considering a Washington hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum) as a replacement.

Wildlife: Birds
Deer resistance: Moderate
** SPECIAL VALUE TO NATIVE BEES **
** SPECIAL VALUE TO BUMBLE BEES **
** PROVIDES NESTING MATERIALS / STRUCTURE FOR NATIVE BEES **
More info from Wildflower Center

Redbud
(Cercis canadensis)
 ©Janet Allen Redbud flowers

The flowers are glorious in early spring. It blooms before the leaves emerge, so it's a mass of flowers in a very beautiful color. Very striking. I could almost forgive its tendency to create so many seedlings.

Redbud
(Cercis canadensis)
 ©Janet Allen Redbud seedpods

When the leaves are gone, the seedpods are prominently displayed throughout the winter. The chickadees love them (and I think they're rather handsome as well). Unfortunately, they're the source of the zillions of little redbud seedlings. Apparently every seed germinates (or at least it seems that way).

Pagoda dogwood
(Cornus alternifolia)
 ©Janet Allen Pagoda dogwood in the spring

The pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) is very attractive in the spring. The flowers aren't fully open yet in this photo, but note the horizontal branching structure. This is why it's called pagoda dogwood. Ironically, this makes it sound like it's not native, but it's one of our finest native understory plants. It's sometimes called alternate-leaf dogwood since it's the only dogwood (that I know of) whose leaves alternate instead of being opposite each other. Like most understory plants, it grows fairly quickly. It was just about two feet tall when we planted it, but about five years later, it was pretty much full-grown. In fact, the two small seedling trees we planted are now much more robust than the full-size pagoda a professional nursery planted in our yard. The shock of being transplanted was just too much for it, and it's now pretty much dead. Perhaps we didn't water it enough, but why get a plant that requires so much extra care when the seedlings grew so well with minimal attention?

Wildlife: Birds and mammals
Larval host: Spring azure
More info from Wildflower Center

Pagoda dogwood
(Cornus alternifolia)
 ©Janet Allen Pagoda dogwood berries in summer(Enlarge)

The berries are very attractive. They're in the process of turning dark blue here. The pedicels (the part that attaches the berry) are red, so they're ornamental, too, even after the berries are gone. And they will be gone! The birds can hardly wait to dive in to eat these extremely nutritious berries. We love watching them eat their "lunch" while we eat ours on the screen porch right next to our pagodas.

Flowering dogwood 'Cherokee Princess'
(Cornus florida)
 ©Janet Allen Flowering dogwood

The classic dogwood flower! It has white four-petal "flowers" though like the poinsettia, they're actually the bracts. (The actual flowers are the little things in the middle.)

This particular variety is a cultivar called 'Cherokee Princess,' which we selected because we were told it was more resistant to anthracnose. However, now that I research it, I can't find a reference to this property. This is another case when it pays to do your own research and not rely on what nurseries say! We haven't yet noticed any problem with this tree, but we'll keep monitoring it. (I wasn't surprised to read that anthracnose was likely introduced to this continent by kousa dogwoods. Their continued presence keeps this problem going, so we're in the process of getting rid of the kousa. It's about half gone, and we'll be working to remove it.)

Wildlife: Fruit for birds, mammals, deer
Larval host: Spring azure
** SPECIAL VALUE TO NATIVE BEES **
** SUPPORTS CONSERVATION BIOLOGICAL CONTROL **
More info from Wildflower Center

Flowering dogwood 'Cherokee Princess'
(Cornus florida)
 ©Janet Allen Flowering dogwood(Enlarge)

This is just a part of the tree, shown in front of our shed. One mistake we made when placing this tree was putting it in our line of sight with our neighbor's white house. This blooms in the spring before other trees have leafed out, and so the white flowers seen against a white house aren't nearly as enjoyable as they would be otherwise.

Its red berries, unlike those of the Kousa dogwood, are just the right size for birds and very nutritious for them.