Amelanchier laevis Wieg.
Synonyms: A. canadensis of many authors, not Mespilus canadensis L.
A large shrub or small tree closely allied to A. arborea (q.v.) and, like that species, known erroneously as “A. canadensis” which name belongs properly to the species described in previous editions under the name A. oblongifolia. It is quite distinct from A. arborea by reason of the bronzy purple colour of the unfolding leaves and by their being almost or quite devoid of down almost from the beginning. In A. arborea both sides of the unfolding leaves are covered with white down. The fruit of A. laevis is black and sweet, that of A. arborea dry and tasteless. Other points of distinction are that in A. laevis the raceme is more lax, with the lower pedicels up to 2 in. long, and that the flowers are borne when the leaves are about half-grown.
A. laevis is found wild in the mountains of most of the eastern United States and extends into Canada as far as Newfoundland, where, however, it is reduced to shrubby dimensions. The comments on the garden value of A. arborea are equally applicable to this species, which is, however, considered to be the finer of the two, by reason of the bronzy colouring of the unfolding leaves and the more graceful racemes. It is a little later to flower.
A. × grandiflora Rehd. – A beautiful hybrid between A. laevis and A. arborea of which there are two forms in cultivation. The plant which Rehder took as the type was in cultivation in Europe as early as 1870 when the Simon-Louis nurseries listed it as A. lancifolia. Young leaves purplish, covered with a loose wool. Flowers larger than in A. arborea on longer, more slender racemes, tinged pink in the bud. The woolly young growths distinguish it from A. laevis. ‘Rubescens’, the other form of the cross, arose spontaneously in Seneca Park, Rochester, U.S.A., as a seedling of A. arborea. It is similar to the type, but the flowers are described as purplish pink in bud and tinged with pink when open.
Naturalised amelanchiers are fairly frequent on sandy heaths in Surrey and neighbouring counties. These have been referred to A. laevis and more recently to A. confusa Hylander. In Flora Europaea, Vol. 2 (1968), Franco gives A. confusa as a synonym of A. × grandiflora Rehd. (see above) and states that this hybrid is found naturalised in western Europe. So far as the British plants are concerned the position is obscure, however. Some specimens in the Kew Herbarium look like A. × grandiflora, others do not. Mr R. D. Meikle suggests that further investigation might well show that the British populations consist not of one species or hybrid but of a number of closely related species, their hybrids and back-crosses.