Sunday, June 2, 2013

"sarvis" berry

This one is for Discover Life in America's Todd Witcher.  I know he is fond of this tree.

Speaking of early ripe berries, in some quarters, this one is known as Juneberry. And it's right in schedule.

Granddad Homer Bales grew up on the Roaring Fork side of Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains. Some might have called him a hillbilly, but I prefer mountaineer. Because as we know from West Virginia’s state motto, “Montani semper liberi." My taciturn Granddad did not know Latin but he certainly knew the slogan's meaning: “Mountaineers are always free.”

In early spring granddad spoke of “sarvis” berries. It’s one of the earliest blooming native trees in the Southern Appalachians. Today, we've morphed the moniker to serviceberry.

The old folk name has an interesting pedigree. It shows that the mountain dialect was rooted in Old English. Tree chronicler Donald Culross Peattie writes that sarvis is a good Shakespearean English form of the word “sorbus,” a Roman name for the fruit of a similar looking European tree.

The serviceberry near the Visitor Center parking lot at Ijams is now loaded. The fruits are sweet and ripe and would make a wonderful pie that is if the fat-bellied mockingbirds do not eat them all first.

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