This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flowers - Pure white, over 1 in. across, on long, slender pedicels, in spreading or dropping racemes, with silky, reddish bracts, early falling, among them. Calyx persistent, 5-parted; 5 long, narrow, tapering petals, 3 or 4 times the length of calyx; numerous stamens inserted on calyx throat; 2 to 5 styles, hairy at base. Stem: A large shrub or tree, usually much less than 25 ft. high, rarely twice that height, wood very hard and heavy. Leaves: Alternate, oval, tapering at tip, finely saw-edged, smooth (like the pear tree's), often hairy when young. Fruit: Round, crimson, sweet, edible, seedy berries, ripe in June and July.
Preferred Habitat - Woodland borders, pasture thickets, dry soil. Flowering Season - March - May.
Distribution - Newfoundland to the Gulf of Mexico, westward over a thousand miles.
Silvery-white chandeliers, hanging from the edges of the woods, light Flora's path in earliest spring, before the trees and shrubbery about them have begun to put forth foliage, much less flowers. Little plants that hug the earth for protection while rude winds rush through the forest and across the hillsides, are already starring her way with fragile, dainty blossoms; but what other shrub, except the service-berry's twin sister the shad-bush, or perhaps the spice-bush, has the temerity to burst into bloom while March gusts howl through the naked forests? Little female bees of the Andrena tribe, already at work collecting pollen and nectar for generations yet unborn, buzz their gratitude about the beautiful feathery clusters that lean away from the crowded thicket with a wild, irregular grace. Nesting birds have abundant cause for gratitude also, for the attractive, sweet berries, that ripen providentially early; but, of course, the bees which transfer pollen from flower to flower, and the birds which drop the seeds far and wide, are not the receivers of wholly disinterested favors.
Shad-Bush. (Amelanchier Botryapiuim)
The Shad-bush or Swamp Sugar-pear (A. Botryapium), because it was formerly accounted a mere variety (oblongifolia) of the preceding species, still shares with it its popular names; but swamps, river banks, brook sides, and moist thickets are its habitat. Consequently both its inflorescence and pale green, glossy foliage are covered with a sort of whitish cotton, absorbent when young, to prevent the pores from clogging with vapors arising from its damp retreats. Late in the season, when streams narrow or dry up altogether, and the air becomes drier, as the sun rises higher in the heavens, the foliage is usually quite smooth. It will be noticed that, lovely as the shad-bush is, its smaller flowers have shorter pedicels than the service-berry's; consequently its feathery sprays, which are flung outward to the sunshine in April and May, lack something of the grace for which its sister stands preeminent. Under cultivation both species assume conventional form, and lose the wild irregularities of growth that charm us in Nature's garden. Indians believed, what is an obvious fact, that when this bush whitens the swampy river-banks, shad are swimming up the stream from the sea to spawn. Then, too, the night hawk, returning from its winter visit south, booms forth its curious whirring, vibrating, jarring sound as it drops through the air at unseen heights, a dismal, weird noise which the red man thought proceeded from the shad spirits come to warn the schools of fish of their impending fate.