Q. What are some native American fruiting shrubs or trees I can grow?
There are a large number of edible native fruit shrubs or trees that are suitable for growing in the home garden. Here are a few suggestions:
Blueberries (Vaccinium sp.)
Blueberries are popular for their tasty fruits and the beautiful fall color of their leaves. High-bush blueberries (V.corymbosum) are probably the best species to grow. Half-high varieties (hybrids between high and low-bush species) are good for a smaller garden. Wild blueberries have small fruits (but very tasty), but there are cultivated varieties that produce fruits four or five times the size. Varieties have been developed for cold or heat tolerance, size, and taste characteristics. Plant at least two varieties for cross-pollination.
Huckleberry (Gaylussacia sp.)
Huckleberries usually have blacker fruits than blueberries, but the most definitive difference is that huckleberries have about 10 hard seeds whereas blueberries have numerous softer seeds. Blueberries are more common in the Northeast and huckleberries in the Northwest of the U.S. Evergreen huckleberry (G. ovatum), black huckleberry (G. membranaceum) and red huckleberry (V. parvifolium) are suitable for garden culture.
Serviceberry or shadbush (Amelanchier sp.)
A bush or small tree with small berries that ripen in late June. The berries are red when immature and turn dark purple as they ripen. They can be eaten fresh or made into jams and jelly.
Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)
A tall bush (up to 25 ft. high) that has nice fall color and produces lots of small, dark-purple fruit in August. Eating the fruit will not cause you to choke, as the name implies, but they are extremely astringent when eaten raw. They can be made into jelly, syrup, pies, preserves and wine.
Elderberry (Sambucus sp.)
Blue or purple elderberries are highly edible, although tart. They can be made into elderberry wine,
jam, syrup, and pies. The entire flower cluster can be dipped in batter and fried while petals can be eaten
raw or made into a fragrant and tasty tea. Elderberry flowers add an aromatic flavor and lightness to pancakes or fritters. Caution: Use only blue or purple berries. Elderberry species that are red are toxic and should not be eaten at all (as per U.S.D.A. guidelines)!
Raspberries (Rubus sp.)
Raspberries grow as low, arching, prickly shrubs. They tend to spread and become invasive unless kept under control. There are both red and black raspberries. Also, there are summer-bearing kinds that produce only one crop a year and ever-bearers that produce fruit in the summer and in the fall. Raspberries can be eaten raw and made into jam, jellies, sauce and syrup.
Wild plum (Prunus americana)
There are many cultivated varieties of this native plum. They grow as large shrubs or small trees 3-20 feet high. The fruit, which ripens in August or September, is round and yellow or red. The plums can be used for sauces, pies, jellies, or preserves.
Grape holly (Mahonia aquifolium)
The dark blue fruits of this commonly grown garden shrub are edible. They are quite tart but can be made into jams and jellies with the addition of lots of sugar.
Note: Most of these fruits are much loved by birds, so you will need to protect them (e.g. with netting) if you want to harvest some for your own use.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service