"You Say Sarvis, I Say Service": Serviceberry Blossoms Beckon Spring

In the area of northeastern Washington I call home serviceberry bushes cover hillsides along the country roads I frequent. They burst into bloom at the first hint of spring. It seems to be an instant thing. One day the branches are showing new growth, the next day they are exploding with blossoms. The reason it seems this way is because the blossoms appear on this shrub before the leaves.

In the early days of traveling preachers, this spring bloom coincided with the first church services of the year as snow melted and roads again became passable - hence the name Serviceberry. My husband has always said "Sarvisberry". "Sarvis" is the Appalachian pronunciation of service. I didn't know what the plant was when I first moved here. I actually thought it was syringa, the state flower of Idaho (which I should have known doesn't bloom this early and is much more fragrant). Then I thought "Sarvisberry" and "Serviceberry" were two different plants which caused some confusion when we were doing plant identification on our property! He thought people that called them "Serviceberries" were making a mistake.

All confusion aside, they are a rare beauty in spring all over the country. Serviceberries are one of the top-rated wildlife landscape plants. They offer nesting space and plenty of food for the birds. Some think the fruit is quite tasty to humans as well and is often used in pies and preserves.The Native American food pemmican is flavored by serviceberry fruits in combination with fat and dried meats, and the stems are made into arrow shafts.

These shrubs have also become a popular domestic landscape plant. We have a few on our property, but they were native plants that I kept. These blossoms are much more beautiful left on the branch. When cut and placed in water that don't last long and make a bit of a mess as they drop their petals.

Serviceberry blossoms make any trip worthwhile this time of year. Just driving up and down the highway along Lake Roosevelt yesterday we were in awe of their springtime beauty.


  1. Genius. It's these particular observations about things around where you live that make your blog rock.

  2. Thanks. It was a fun one to research.

  3. Hi, I was just searching for sarvis berry recipes and stuff and ran across this blog, pretty cool, i've always loved them. Then I notices your sibling link one from silver valley so i went there since I live in Pinehurst, and saw she had her bible open and must be a christian pretty cool, we are too. It was kinda neat to run into you guys, thanks! Jaime

  4. The sarvis or service berry's were my late fathers favorite. When they bloom I always think of him. Why they were called service berries is new to me. My father always said the sarivs berries bloom in mid april and the saringa bloom in mid june. The saringa is also called mock orange I believe. Thank you - very interesting, I will pass it on.

  5. lolanne13.7.07

    My daughter is Rose who wrote the above comment and I live just two doors down the road from her. We had thirteen service berry bushes in bloom around our house this spring and feel so blessed to be surrounded by such beauty.
    We also have yellow buttercups, purple grass widows, johnny jumpups and yellow balsom blooming throughout the spring on our property only where it has never been plowed up and has been left natural.

  6. Hi Jaime,
    Welcome to my blog! Yes, I grew up in Kellogg and taught in Pinehurst in the early 80's. Silver Valley Girl is a Christian... be sure to visit her awesome blog.
    Hi Rose and Lolanne: Thanks for visiting my blog. I love sarvis also. It sounds like you are blessed as I am to be in a beautiful area. I loved learning about the sarvis berry plants. Now I should try the berries.

  7. Chainsaw@runestone.net23.4.09

    Hello Friends.
    As I was browsing looking for a good Sarvus,Service, or as we called them on the farm in North Dakota. The "June Berry". :-]
    It's blooms are most beautiful to trumpet the arrival of Spring.
    Given its wonderful flavour close to blueberries.. We coveted any bushes/trees that we found out there in the farmland.
    Often, on local party phone lines, the call went out to any who would know of such areas with June berries ready to be harvested.
    With syrup pails in hand we would head out, often on horses, to find our bounty and would return in triumph to present to our Mothers the berries which soon would be presented as a special dinner fair as a long awaited special pie. Also, preserves worked well for the earlier preparation of winter supplies needed.
    When that was done, the next project, was to watch for the chokecherries that would come to ripening in late July and more into August depending upon the weather and other circumstances. :-]
    So, I sure appreciate the time to share here also. As I'm an old man of 65 now.
    I still carry the pattern of doing so at this time as I had learned so much as a child during those days.
    I wish all of you the best.
    Take care.
    Ol Roy. :-]

  8. Anonymous5.5.09

    Hey Ya'll,
    I too use to pick sarvis berries right off the tree. My brothers and I would climb the tree and have a feast you wouldn't believe. Yummmm! I grew up in the Appalachian country and wish I were still there just to see all the beauty of bloom and to sample all the delicious berries. As I am an ole woman now of 66 years but still remember. Thanks


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