Herb: Saskatoon


Latin name: Amelanchier alnifolia


Synonyms: Aronia alnifolia


Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)



Medicinal use of Saskatoon:

Saskatoon was quite widely employed as a medicinal herb by the North American Indians, who used it to treat a wide range of minor complaints. It is little used in modern herbalism. An infusion of the inner bark is used as a treatment for snow-blindness. A decoction of the fruit juice is mildly laxative. It has been used in the treatment of upset stomachs, to restore the appetite in children, it is also applied externally as ear and eye drops. A decoction of the roots has been used in the treatment of colds. It has also been used as a treatment for too frequent menstruation. A decoction of the stems, combined with the stems of snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp) is diaphoretic. It has been used to induce sweating in the treatment of fevers, flu etc and also in the treatment of chest pains and lung infections. A decoction of the plant, together with bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata) has been used as a contraceptive. Other recipes involving this plant have also been used as contraceptives including a decoction of the ashes of the plant combined with the ashes of pine branches or buds. A strong decoction of the bark was taken immediately after childbirth to hasten the dropping of the placenta. It was said to help clean out and help heal the woman's insides and also to stop her menstrual periods after the birth, thus acting as a form of birth control.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Shrub

Height:
4 m
(13 feet)

Flovering:
May

Habitat of the herb:

Thickets, woodland edges and banks of streams in moist well-drained soils. Small bushy forms grow on fairly dry hillsides.

Edible parts of Saskatoon:

Edible fruit - raw or cooked. The fruit ripens in mid summer (early July in southern Britain), it is soft and juicy with a few small seeds in the centre. A very nice sweet flavour that is enjoyed by almost everyone who tries it, there is a hint of apple in the taste. About the size of a blackcurrant, the fruit is produced in small clusters and the best wild forms can be 15mm in diameter. The fruit can also be dried and used as raisins or made into pemmican. The fruit is rich in iron and copper. The leaves are a tea substitute.

Other uses of the herb:

Plants have a spreading, suckering root system and are used in windbreaks for erosion control. Young branches can be twisted to make a rope. Wood - hard, straight grained, tough. Used for tool handles etc. The wood can be made even harder by heating it over a fire and it is easily moulded whilst still hot. The young stems are used to make rims, handles and as a stiffening in basket making.

Propagation of Saskatoon:

Seed - it is best harvested "green", when the seed is fully formed but before the seed coat has hardened, and then sown immediately in pots outdoors or in a cold frame. If stored seed is obtained early enough in the autumn, it can be given 4 weeks warm stratification before being left out in the winter and it should then germinate in the spring. Otherwise seed can be very slow to germinate, perhaps taking 18 months or more. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a sheltered outdoor position, planting them out once they are 20cm or more tall. If there is sufficient seed it is best to sow it thinly in an outdoor seedbed. Grow the seedlings on for two years in the seedbed before planting them out into their permanent positions during the winter. Layering in spring - takes 18 months. Division of suckers in late winter. The suckers need to have been growing for 2 years before you dig them up, otherwise they will not have formed roots. They can be planted out straight into their permanent positions if required.

Cultivation of the herb:

Thickets, woodland edges and banks of streams in moist well-drained soils. Small bushy forms grow on fairly dry hillsides.

Known hazards of Amelanchier alnifolia:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.