Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Saskatoon Spring: Flowers for Fish and Funerals …

… and pies, basket frames, rope, and tea, as well as many other things.  

It is one of the earliest trees to flower around the Conway Public Library. It graces the entrance to the library park and has a very interesting history. 

One of its many nicknames is Shadbush. 

The "Shad" reference is from the historical era when immense schools of migratory shad fish returned in April to New England rivers, just as the "Shadbush" bloomed.

Other nicknames include serviceberry, sarvis, juneberry, saskatoon, wild-plum and chuckley pear.    

One naturalist suggests this native tree has so many different names because people in New England appreciate the beauty of the earliest flowers so much more at winter's end!
But equally beautiful are the stories and folktales that have been associated with this tree for hundreds of years.

One story is that the first settlers in the New England area often planned funeral services at the same time that the tree bloomed. Its blooming was a sign that the ground had thawed sufficiently to be able to dig graves. So the tree became known as the ‘serviceberry tree.

Traditionally the berries which fruit in June they are often used to make pemmican, a dried mash of lean meat, berries, and animal fat that was historically a common staple food among native peoples. The meat would be whatever’s on hand—bison, elk, deer—and the berries would be whatever’s in season—serviceberries, blueberries, cranberries. When properly prepared, pemmican can keep in storage for up to 10 years!

Shad fry Pembrooke, MA

Shad planking has become a political event in parts of New England. 

There is even a shad museum in Haddam CN follow the link here

Earlier today we explored the shadbush tree with second graders at the Northeast Woodlands Charter School in Conway. If you would like to learn more about New England's "working woods" contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.