Questions on: Juneberries

Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service


Q: I just discovered your Web site and was wondering if you can answer a few questions. Where can I get Juneberry plants? Is it easy to transplant them? If I were to go where they grow wild and try to transplant them to my backyard, would it work? Thanks for any help you can give me. (e-mail reference)

A: Most garden centers carry Juneberry plants. They can be dug from the wild, but it needs to be done while they are dormant, such as early spring, for maximum success.


Q: I follow your column and enjoy it a lot because many of the problems you discuss cover the Red River Valley. A member of my family bought a farmstead in the Hawley area. The farmstead has five large trees in the yard. These trees were loaded with berries that looked like Juneberries or chokecherries. I have been told that the berries were poisonous because there were so many and that birds are smart and will not touch them. Is there a berry tree out there that has poisonous berries? If so, we think we might cut down the trees. The trees are nicely shaped. I picked Juneberries for many years in the ‘30s and ‘40s. I noticed that Juneberries are available in the new seed catalogs, so I am thinking about starting some to see if they will survive. Would the new Juneberry be worth planting? (Moorhead, Minn.)

A: Birds clean off berries as they ripen, depriving humans of this very nice treat! Are you sure they are not crabapples? Crabapples often get left on the trees until the food supply becomes critical toward the end of winter. Yes, the new Juneberries are worth it! Thanks for writing and being a faithful reader!


Q: In the last several years, my chokecherry bushes have declined and just about died out. I think that the lawn herbicides my neighbor has sprayed commercially on his lawn might be part of the problem. I was told my use of Roundup to control nearby weeds and suckers also may be contributing to the problem. I would like to replace these sickly shrubs with a variety of other shrubs that produce food for the birds and some for me. Do you have any suggestions? I'm thinking about planting Juneberries, but in reading about them I am afraid they will sucker too much. The growing area gets partial to full sun. I want to plant the shrubs for use as a privacy screen. (Aberdeen, S.D.)

A: Stay with the idea of Juneberries because they don't sucker that much. I've grown them on my property for the past 20 years without hassle, except the birds get the fruit if I don't cover them!


Q: I have a question about Juneberry shrub trees. When the Juneberries start to ripen, they get red in color and then something starts to grow on them, almost like a fungus. What could it be and what can be done? (e-mail reference)

A: It is a fungus, most likely cedar-apple rust. Juneberry is in the same family as the apple (rose), so it is subject to some of the same diseases. The easiest way to control this is to find the offending juniper and remove it or pick off and destroy the orange, golf ball-sized fruit that is present before sporogenesis has a chance to begin.


Q: I plan to go searching the Burleigh County and Rock Hill Township area for Juneberry bushes to make pies. A friend says Juneberries aren’t ready until the middle or late July. Isn’t she thinking about chokecherries? Can you tell me when Juneberries ripen? I would think June since they are called Juneberries. (e-mail reference)

A: Judging from my own Juneberries, I would say that sometime around the middle of July is about right. Find one growing locally on someone’s property and gauge your visit to the wilds on that. The season can move a week or two based on weather conditions.


Q: Our son-in-law recently acquired some juneberry bushes from a nursery in Minnesota. Is there anything he can do prior to planting that would protect them from black knot disease that is so prevalent in North Dakota? Any information on planting/maintenance also would be helpful. I continue to depend on your knowledge related to horticulture. Thanks so much for being there for us “amateur gardeners.” (Turtle Lake, N.D.)

A: Black knot is a cherry problem, not a juneberry issue. Keeping birds from getting to the berries before you do will be the big challenge! For juneberry care, go to my Web site: www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/shrub/junebrry.htm. On the site, many questions on juneberry care and culture are answered. I’m glad my information is helpful to you! Thanks.


Q: Four years ago, I planted Juneberries in the outside row of our shelterbelt. I’m disappointed that they’re only a few feet tall. They provide little wind protection or snow catch. I’m ready to tear the row out. Someone suggested we offer the Juneberry bushes to someone who has a better location for them. Is transplanting a possibility? It’s been suggested that amur maple would be a good replacement. I have lilac, juniper, ash and Russian olive in the belt.

A: Juneberries and junipers are alternate hosts for cedar-apple rust, so it is no surprise that you are having difficulties. I have found that Juneberries also are a favorite bunny snack. I suspect that they have played a role in keeping the Juneberries, growth in check. It has been my experience that Juneberries transplant easily in the early spring. If you can work up the ambition to dig out 150 feet of the bushes before they leaf out, go for it! The amur maple would make an excellent replacement and so would honeysuckle.


Q: I wanted to plant some Juneberries in my yard, but my sister told me that I should plant serviceberries instead. Is there a difference between the two plants? Also, in my yard grass, I have circular areas of grass developing that are different than what was planted. The grass has a wide blade and seems to spread by underground rhizomes. Do you have an idea what kind of grass this is? (e-mail reference)

A: Juneberries, serviceberries, Saskatoons, shadblow and probably more refer to the same plant, Amelanchier spp. It just depends on what part of North America you come from. The grass is likely quackgrass. There is no selective means of controlling it.


Q: We would like to know what a Juneberry bush is. How tall does it grow and what are its bushing habits? Is the fruit good for eating, making jelly or jam or feeding birds? (Forman, N.D.)

A: Juneberries are native to our region and are beautiful shrubs with white flowers in early spring and blueberry type fruit about this time of year. If you can get to them, they make good pies, jams and jellies but birds gobble most up before we humans can get to them. They also have a nice yellow/orange fall color.


Q: A homeowner in Cando has a couple of juneberry bushes about three years old that are having problems. The juneberries begin developing but then turn brown and dry up. There is a small amount of leaf disease but nothing significant. What could be causing the problem and what could he do to prevent it? (Cando, N.D.)

A: Juneberries are members of the rose family, as are apples and subject to many of the same diseases. In this case, I think the problem could be rust or a fruit rot fungus. The weather has certainly been conducive to the development of the two diseases. There’s nothing you can do about it now except follow good sanitation practices. Remove and destroy the affected fruit and foliage. Next spring spray the bushes with a lime sulfur spray while still dormant. As the leaves open, spray using a Bordeaux mixture.


Q: What is wrong with my Juneberries? (Sidney, Mont.)

A: Juneberry rust. The alternate host is juniper--most commonly Rocky Mountain type. Remove the junipers in the landscape, or the orange "ball" of spores from them that form in the spring, and that will interrupt the disease cycle. That is better control than sprays with bordeaux mixture.


Q: I would like some information on propagation and transplanting of Juneberries. Also I need some information on how to remove grass from my asparagus bed. Thank you in advance for any information you will send me. (Sheyenne, N.D.)

A: Refer to "Juneberry" (H938), a publication of the NDSU Extension Service.

Judging from your description of the weeds invading your asparagus patch, I think you would be better off digging the entire thing up and resetting it somewhere where the weeds are not as troublesome. While salt water can take out most of the weeds, it is not good for the soil. Even though asparagus can tolerate some salt, its presence will inhibit the normal growth of the plants.

Refer to "Asparagus and Rhubarb" (H61), a publication of the NDSU Extension Service, which should provide you some guidelines. Hope all of this helps.


Q: Could you send me some information about strawberries, juneberries and raspberries for northern Minnesota? (Newfolden, Minn.)

A: Refer to the following publications from the NDSU Extension Service: "Strawberries" (H16), "Refreshing Raspberries for Home-Grown Goodness" (H38) and "Juneberry" (H938). If you require anything further, please get back in touch!


Q: I planted Juneberry plants last year and they were growing fine, but now they seem to be an attractive food source for some insects that look like a small fly. They strip the leaves off and now are spreading to my cherry bushes. Can you tell me how to get rid of these insects?
(Hankinson, N.D.)

A: It sounds like you have a couple of villains working on your Juneberry plants.

I cannot get a clear ID on the insect that is causing you the problem, based on what you have told me. It could be the winged generation of the wooly elm aphid, the Juneberry sawfly, the cherry shoot borer, or a combination of all three.

The leaf sample appeared to have the symptoms of anthracnose and a touch of a leaf spot fungus.

Based on this information and with a continuing contributing weather pattern, I suggest that you surrender. It appears you are fighting an uphill battle. Sorry.


Q. How long does it take blueberries, Juneberries and grapes to bear fruit? (Devils Lake, N.D.)

A. Blueberries can only be grown with Herculean effort in North Dakota. I am sure there are a few devoted gardeners who have succeeded, but it is not worth the effort and expense. Generally, they begin producing after two to three years.

Juneberries are the most logical small fruit to grow from your selection. Mine started producing after three years, but the birds get them all as they ripen.

Grapes also require about three years before any production can come off to any degree. Beta, Canadice and King of the North are the most dependable cultivars to try. All are good for making jams, jellies and wine (or grape juice). Others can be grown, but generally require extra protection for survival and production.


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