Juneberries – They Go Where Blueberries Can’t

Many small farm operators and fruit enthusiasts see blueberries as Plan A.  We all know that blueberries are popular, tasty, and they practically market themselves.  But if you do not have very well-drained, acidic soils, you have to go with Plan B.  It would be great if there was a productive berry that very much looked and tasted like a blueberry, but was not so fickle about soils.  That’s where juneberries come in.  And it turns out, juneberries have several advantages over blueberries.


Commercial juneberries are very productive and appealing. Courtesy of Jim Ochterski.

The juneberry (known commonly elsewhere as a “saskatoon berry”) is a dark-colored fruit that is grown on the Canadian prairies for wholesale processing, with some fresh market and you-pick sales.   The species of commercial interest is Amelanchier alnifolia, a close cousin of our Eastern serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis), which is found as a tall shrub in our local forests.  Juneberries are currently considered an “uncommon” fruit with virtually no commercial cultivation in the Northeast US.  In comparison, juneberries are grown on almost 900 farms covering more than 3,200 acres of production in Canada.

Juneberries are an early season fruit crop with self-pollinating, frost hardy flowers.   Mature fruit is ready for harvest 45 to 60 days after the very early bloom; they ripen in mid-June to early July in most parts of New York State.  This medium-sized shrub tolerates a wide range of soil pH conditions (4.8 – 8.0) and soil textures (coarse sand to silty clay).  They will not tolerate soggy ground or standing water, but will tolerate many of the soil types unsuitable for blueberries.

The juneberry is native to North America, more particularly to the upper Midwest and northern prairie region of Canada – a bitterly cold and dry climate with low-fertility soils.  The Northeastern climate appears to be favorable for juneberry production, although high humidity can lead to problems with powdery mildew and fungal diseases on young plants.

The ripe juneberry fruit is dark purple, with several tiny soft seeds, and very closely resembles a highbush blueberry.  The fruit is best eaten fresh, but even after prolonged freezing, it retains its firmness and overall shape without becoming mushy.

Juneberries have a flavor reminiscent of dark cherries or raisins, and is generally milder than blueberries.

Nutritionally, juneberries seem to be naturally designed for athletes more than anything else:

  • A typical juneberry is 18 percent sugar, and about 80 percent water.  Juneberries have a lower moisture content than blueberries, so they have relatively higher amounts of calcium, natural fiber, proteins, carbohydrates and lipids in them.
  • Juneberries are an excellent source of iron – each serving provides about 23% RDA for iron (almost twice as much iron as blueberries). They contain high levels of phenolic compounds, particularly anthocyanins, and, they provide healthy amounts of potassium, magnesium and phosphorous.
  • Juneberries have about as much vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, folate, vitamin A and vitamin E as blueberries, and also trace amounts of biotin.

They key to successful establishment of a juneberry orchard is thorough weed control.  Having evolved in a fire-oriented ecosystem, juneberries need two or three years of zero competition from other plants while they become established. There are many ways to maintain this “barren soil” environment, and black fabric mulch appears to be best (you know – so it looks as though a prairie wildfire had swept through).

With all these great features, juneberries are primed to grow from a minor berry to a more common high-value fruit crop in the coming years.  Consumers are ready for a new fruit, especially one with a familiar and appealing taste.  During a juneberry tasting session, we received many positive responses from more than 1,500 samples.

If you want to get juneberries in the ground, start by developing your rows well in advance of ordering or delivery.  Rows should be spaced 10 – 12 feet apart, planning for about 4 feet between bushes.  The first crop will be ready three years after planting, and bushes will yield 4 – 6 pounds of berries annually.

Plant material for small-scale commercial plantings can be hard to find, since it is a new crop.  Most plants are currently purchased from Canadian nurseries, but several Michigan-based operations are increasing their inventory of juneberry plants.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County is leading a detailed project to give small-scale fruit growers a realistic sense of the agronomic suitability of juneberries and how well this crop might or might not go over with consumers.  The project has been made possible by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (NESARE).  Four farms signed on to provide testing grounds for more than 400 juneberry plants of four different varieties.

Avatar of Jim Ochterski

Jim Ochterski

Jim Ochterski is the project leader to introduce juneberries in the Northeast.  He is based at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Canandaigua, NY (Ontario County) and has an ongoing interest in sustainable, native crops with significant commercial potential.  Jim can be reached at 585-394-3977 x402 or jao14@cornell.edu.


  1. Avatar of Anne Rangere Anne Rangere on June 19, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    I live at the southern end of Letchworth Park in western NY. I am planning on planting one long row of juneberries on one side of my yard. Probably 50ft. row. Where would be the best place to get young plants and when is the best time to plant them?

    • Avatar of Tim Tim on May 15, 2021 at 9:25 am

      Honey Berry USA sells June Berrys. Nice people, reasonable prices.

  2. Avatar of Janice Martin Janice Martin on August 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    I am looking for frozen juneberries for desserts for my catering company. Do you know any suppliers that would have them?

  3. Avatar of alan alan on August 29, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I live in central Illinois. Would juneberries be a good crop to grow here, considering the possibility of powdery mildew & other diseases?

  4. Avatar of jack munt jack munt on December 9, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    what are my options for desease control in the third year? I planted 200 bushes lost 165 the first year supplier replaced them next year last year we had a small crop and they sold very well

    • Avatar of Liz Liz on March 21, 2022 at 10:23 am

      The best way I have found to keep the diseases at bay are by removing infected berries and growth by hand, very thoroughly in the early in the season. You could also spray during bloom and early berry period.

  5. Avatar of William Wilson William Wilson on January 8, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    I have some property that is silty clay that does hold moisture in the spring but usually dries out in the summer unless we have a really wet year than it will stay wet and there have been years where it has remained wet. I was wondering if this would be a candidate for June berries. I thought I could find a soil map but couldn’t locate it. I live in north central PA 16946.

    • Avatar of Lee Hemming Lee Hemming on July 4, 2020 at 1:59 pm

      Why are there ants on the June berry Bush? Bad or okay?

  6. Avatar of julie julie on March 5, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Do juneberries need to be protected from birds and do deer tend to browse on the plant?

  7. Avatar of Chuck Kottke Chuck Kottke on May 20, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    Mike suggested that I start a juneberry farm here in NE Wisconsin, though I wonder if there is a sufficient market for these delectable berries?
    Some of the wild ones growing on the hillside above the brook have good size and a most excellent flavor, akin to thick sweet apple-blueberry sauce, and I am wondering if I would be better off simply reproducing these plants using tissue culture methods?

  8. Avatar of Kathleen Johnson Kathleen Johnson on July 13, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    In answer to Julie about birds and deer. We have a long 100 ft row of Juneberries growing as the front row in our farm shelter belt in North Dakota. The birds love Juneberries and we always need to pick them before the birds get them. The deer also love the Juneberries and after a few years of deer browsing and eating all of the tops off the branches resulting in no flowering and consequently no berries, my husband set up a one string electric fence around the row using solar power to produce the electricity. It kept the deer away so the bushes were able to flower and we started to get Juneberries in the first part of July. The deer population has abated somewhat in our rural area (thanks to the deer hunters) and for a couple years we have had no deer trouble and the fence has come down. I should mention I also had an electric fence around my perennial and lily garden that kept the deer from destroying it. But now because the reasons above, I can finally garden without the fence. I just picked 8 quarts of Juneberries yesterday and today.

  9. Avatar of Wendy Feldberg Wendy Feldberg on August 4, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    Hi Jim,
    My Saskatoon has scarcely any berries this year. It was transplanted fully grown to a new garden three summers ago. It was in shock the first summer and lost many leaves; it recovered the second summer and this year, depsite few berries, has put out strong new growth. It is planted on the slightly sloping edge of a woodland area and is surrounded by woodland type perennials like dicentra, violets, hosta, etc. it is usually not watered or fertised. What causes the low berry count?

  10. Avatar of Janice Dehod Janice Dehod on August 24, 2014 at 10:53 am

    I am looking for a cultivar of Saskatoon Berry to plant near Kenora Ontario….. (It is traitorous to call them Juneberries here)Can you suggest a variety…. it is Canadian shield country zone 2b.

  11. Avatar of Walter Walter on August 26, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    I am starting to grow them here in central Pennsylvania. For close to 15 years the birds wipe them out every year. I ate about 3 this year.

    • Avatar of Laureen Zbyszinski Laureen Zbyszinski on April 5, 2022 at 7:18 pm

      Hi. I’m also in central Pennsylvania. Do you have June berry trees or shrubs?

    • Avatar of Henry Henry on May 28, 2024 at 9:55 am

      What the birds do not eat the squirrels consume. My JRT eats what they drop on the ground. It’s basically a wildlife all you can eat buffet.

  12. Avatar of Michel Soucy Michel Soucy on November 20, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    We’ve discovered a lot of Juneberries/Saskatoon berries in the back end of our new property in Cape Breton and we love them in our smoothies mixed with wild blueberries.
    I’ve come to discover that there are cyanide-like toxins…we like them raw or frozen, is there a daily quantity that would be considered hazardous for one’s health? At the moment we average 1/2 cup per 2-cup smoothie.

  13. Avatar of Walter Walter on November 24, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Michel S. I would not worry about the “cyanide”. It may be part of a harmless to normal tissue, Amygdalin, or vitamin B17 (active ingredient in “laetril”. In its compund state, it is harmless to normal tissue, but a special enzyme found only in cancer cells cause it to break into its components, become toxic, and poisons the cancer cell. I learned this on the “thetruthaboutcancer.com” program, “the quest for the cures”. The “cyanide” is not in a harmful state, but actually is very healthful as a cancer prevention aid.

    • Avatar of Jason England Jason England on January 9, 2024 at 6:59 am

      Debunked myth.

  14. Avatar of Carole Ford Carole Ford on June 7, 2015 at 7:57 am

    A Juneberry jam recipe I found tells me to “grind” the berries before adding to the sugar and cooking. Does this mean to mash? Use a blender? Thanks for any help.

  15. Avatar of Joe parato Joe parato on June 7, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    a local vendor has a juneberry for sale, Janet cultivar. Have you any information on the Janet cultivar? Thank you.

    • Avatar of Michael Hambrook Michael Hambrook on March 7, 2023 at 5:31 pm

      I live in New Brunswick, on the eastern coast of Canada. They have Juneberries here every year.

  16. Avatar of Carli Fraccarolli Carli Fraccarolli on June 8, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Hi Carole,
    From the recipes I’ve found online, you can mash the juneberries with a potato masher or other device. Unfortunately the author of this article has taken a new position and will not be able to answer your question. Check out juneberries.org for more information about juneberries!
    Carli – Cornell Small Farms Student Intern

  17. Avatar of Lucien Hamernik Lucien Hamernik on December 27, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    I have been growing a common selection of amelanchier alnifolia in my garden in northeast Nebraska with success though I planted them too close together. Now I would like to find a US supplier of seedlings for the improved selections of Smoky, Northline,Thiessen,
    Honeywood, JB30, etc. who offers a reasonable retail price. Thanks.

    • Avatar of Alex Hamm Alex Hamm on May 28, 2020 at 11:38 pm

      I’m in Nebraska. The serviceberries offered by the NRD are actually Smokeys, and next year, they will have Bluelines. I’m going to buy a ton of them. I was told this directly by the guy that grows them. Cool guy, huh?

      • Avatar of Alex Hamm Alex Hamm on May 28, 2020 at 11:49 pm

        Correction: Northlines. There is a source of Thiessens at St. Lawrence Nurseries out of New York. I got five this year for 60.

    • Avatar of John ELLIS John ELLIS on April 11, 2021 at 5:11 pm

      Mr. Hamernik, About Thiessen, I can strongly recommend Cliff England in Kentucky. I went to his farms to pick up two Thiessens and they are doing very well since planting last Christmas here in Newark, NJ. Tell him John ELLIS sent you. I am driving back for more plants next December. I bought about dozen items, all, but two seem to have survived, and it is my belief he is replacing those two. My phone number is 917-319-5995 and my email is ellisarch@yahoo.com if you have questions. I intend on planting a hedge from my next order. You said you planted TOO CLOSE. At what distance would you recommend for privacy?

  18. Avatar of Kathleen Barthelmes Kathleen Barthelmes on June 12, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    I would like to buy two or three June berry plants. I live in Westchester County just north
    of NYC. Where can I buy them? by mail order?
    a nursery?
    thanks, kay

  19. Avatar of CAROLE CAROLE on October 22, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Good morning
    I live in the NY area and would like plant a junberry tree. Where can I buy one and is October to late to plant such a tree?

  20. Avatar of Victoria Belik Victoria Belik on November 1, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    I live in Brooklyn, NY and would like to plant a juneberry. Where can I get them?

  21. Avatar of John Paul John Paul on January 13, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Victoria Belik: I run an edible nursery in Staten Island, NY and offer Juneberries for sale – the website is http://www.mandala.farm

  22. Avatar of Lucien Hamernik Lucien Hamernik on March 12, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Hi Tara,
    I just now found your response to my inquiry about specific cultivars–I think. Thank you. The suggested nursery’s web site is down right now but I will keep trying.

  23. Avatar of Lisa Lisa on May 23, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    I live in Raleigh, NC, and we discovered a few years back that our local bank has juneberry shrubs for decorative landscaping. We pick pounds of them this time of year. Last year the whole crop was decimated by cedar apple rust, but they’re back this year.

  24. Avatar of S L S L on June 21, 2020 at 11:46 pm

    Looking for a source for small juneberry shrubs. Don’t have the room for a tree nor the large space for numerous bushes. The mandala.com site above appears to be out of service. I see there’s a number of cultivars in existence. Any info appreciated.

  25. Avatar of Rock Rock on February 14, 2022 at 12:04 pm

    Are these likely to contribute significantly to allergies in general population living near them. I’ve learned to always ask.

  26. Avatar of Taylor Taylor on February 18, 2022 at 11:40 am

    Peaceful Heritage Nursery in Kentucky sells organic Juneberry plants and many others.

  27. Avatar of Babs Babs on July 19, 2022 at 2:06 am

    Hi!! I have these growing wild on om property. Very Heaty. I have a silt, sandy soil and I have not watered them much as I only just discovered 3 large bushes. I am in Northern Idaho, about 120 miles to Canada Boarder. They have not been tended to at all and are growing wild. What do I do. They are tasty.

  28. Avatar of James James on March 21, 2024 at 1:45 pm


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