Plant Species of the Bright Angel Trail: Utah service-berry, Amelanchier utahensis

See Plant Guide to Bright Angel Trail for an introduction to this page, especially the Introduction To These Species Pages.


Identification status: high confidence. The plant at the trailhead has typical Amelanchier utahensis leaves (but see discussion below). I was fortunate to find a few flowers on specimens at mile 0.15, which has fairly typical flowers of this species.

The McDougall keying within Rosaceae is:

1a.  Woody plants
2a.  Ovary inferior or appearing so
3a.  Leaves simple

4a.  Top of ovary smooth; twigs and leaves smooth from the first ... A. polycarpa (=A. pumila=A. alnifolia var. pumila)
4b.  Top of ovary hairy; twigs and leaves at first hairy. ...A. utahensis

I can't distinguish between these two species, since I didn't check the top of the ovary and I haven't seen the young leaves, but the 1987 Grand Canyon flora says that A. pumila is questionably distinct from A. utahensis, and only places it at a single location on the North Kaibab Trail.

In contrast, the 1987 Grand Canyon flora says that A. utahensis is common along upper parts of all trails leading into the canyon. So it seems pretty safe to go with a determination of A. utahensis.

However, I note that USDA Plants, and the Jepson Manual, accept A. pumila as a species distinct from A. utahensis. The Jepson Manual distinguishes it as follows:

1.  Styles gen 2-4...A. utahensis
1'. Styles gen 5...A. alnifolia var. pumila

(There is also a gen discriminant using the leaf hairiness, but it is said not to work in eastern California.)

It might be fun to look at the voucher specimens of A. polycarpa from the Grand Canyon and see how many styles they have. I will check the style number of plants on this trail on future trips.

In the field, I spent some time debating about the determination of the plants at mile 0.15 shown below. Those leaves don't look like typical A. utahensis leaves that I have seen since they are entire. However, they are virtually identical to the ones in this picture. The Jepson Manual illustration also shows two leaves, the normal clearly-serrate-above-middle version as well as an almost entire leaf.

The difference between the plants at the trailhead and the ones at mile 0.15 is probably just part of the extreme variability of this species. Many different species have been defined from this widespread taxon that are now considered to be all part of the same species. For example, in southern California alone, Munz 1974 listed three species that all now considered A. utahensis.

From a SEINet search, there are a whopping 54 vouchers of A. utahensis from the Coconino County portion of the Grand Canyon, including an amazing EIGHT vouchers from this trail! Vouchers with elevations or good locations are: 6321 feet (mile ~0.79), 5700 feet (mile ~1.6), TWO at 5000 feet (mile ~2.6), 4800 feet (mile ~2.9) and from Indian Gardens (mile ~4.5). Note that there may be additional vouchers at other herbaria not available through SEINet.

There are five vouchers of Amelanchier polycarpa from the Grand Canyon, including one from this trail at 5000 feet (mile ~2.6) collected in 1938.

First occurrence on Bright Angel Trail: mile 0.00, elevation 6845 feet (2086 m).

Number of plants along Trail: This species is very abundant on this trail. At least 50 plants were found in at least 9 different locations in September 2007.


From 5 September 2007, mile 0.01 (not the first plant on the trail):

From 5 September 2007, mile 0.15, just past the first tunnel:

Note the six petals on the flowers above. The rose family is not strict about adhering to having just five petals; the Jepson Manual just says petals gen 5.


See Resources for Grand Canyon Flora for further information on most of these references. Entries in the second column are either the name used in that source or a page reference. The name is linked to online pages when available. If a given reference does not contain this taxon, the entry is either left blank or contains a hyphen.

Scientific NameAmelanchier utahensis
1987 Grand Canyon Flora NameAmelanchier utahensis
1987 Grand Canyon Flora page54
SEINet Image PageAmelanchier utahensis
USDA PlantsAmelanchier utahensis
Flora of North America
Jepson Manual for California treatmentAmelanchier utahensis
Jepson Manual illustration page951
Kearney and Peebles NameAmelanchier utahensis
Kearney and Peebles Page #377
Vascular Plants of AZ name
Vascular Plants of AZ volume: page
Huisinga et al 2006 name-
Huisinga et al 2006 page numbers-
Epple NameAmelanchier utahensis
Epple description page #86, 91
Epple pix #74 A-B
McDougall 1964 nameAmelanchier utahensis
McDougall 1964 page #113
Brian 2000 Name
Phillips 1979 nameAmelanchier utahensis
Phillips 1979 page #15
Stockert 1967 nameAmelanchier utahensis
Stockert 1967 page #10

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Copyright © 2007 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last Update: 24 September 2007