A Tale of the Edible Serviceberry


The edible serviceberry as seen on the Iceberg Lake Trail, Glacier National Park

Wildflowers were abundant on the Iceberg Lake Trail the other day. Everything was blooming and the hillsides and meadows were covered in shades of yellow, orange, blue, pink, and white. Regardless of how often we take this hike or repeat any other trail, there is always something new to discover.

When we first moved to Montana, we heard a lot about the huckleberry. It isn’t commercially grown, so each summer people take to the mountainsides in search of this delectable fruit.

One problem we had early on was identifying the huckleberry from the serviceberry. The easiest way to tell the difference is to look at the leaves on the bushes. The leaves on hucks have smooth edges while the leaves on serviceberry are serrated.

Serviceberry bushes bloom a little earlier than hucks, and while on the hike we learned a little tidbit about that.

It is thought that the blossoms on a serviceberry bush were once used as an indicator of warm ground. Thus, the deceased of the previous winter could be buried. Put together the word service and bury for an easy way to remember the story and help identify the plant. Soon the serviceberry will produce its edible purple fruit. But don’t be fooled, the huckleberry is superior in taste and texture. But any self respecting Montanan knows that!

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