Uncategorized Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

The Sarvis Tree Is Blooming In Appalachia

Sarvis Tree in my backyard

Every where I look I see Sarvis trees with their dainty white blooms open wide.



Each Spring, since I was a little girl, Granny makes sure I know the Sarvis trees spread across the mountains are blooming.

Sarvis Berries

Sarvis berries

Sarvis trees are called Serviceberry Trees by most folks and they grow throughout the United States. I’ve read varying accounts of how they came to be called Sarvis. One of the simplest comes from an old issue of Smoky Mountain News:

In A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America (Houghton Mifflin, 1950), naturalist Donald Culross Peattie provides the following explanation for the common name: “It is from the fruits that the sarvisberry takes its name, for the word is a transformation of the ‘sorbus’ given by the Romans to a related kind of fruit. ‘Sarvis’ is a good Shakespearean English of the most classic Latin.” The Oxford English Dictionary provides “sarvice” and “sarves” as variant forms of “service” when applied to one of the European pear trees (Pyrus domestica).

Makes perfect sense, but the other 2 theories are much more to my liking.

—After a long hard winter folks began to look forward to Spring for many reasons, among them the return of the traveling preacher. It seemed the trees began to bloom at the same time church ‘sarvises’ returned.

Nice, but the account I like best comes from one of my favorite Appalachian writers, John Paris.

—Mr. Paris credits the first women who settled in the mountains with naming the Sarvis tree. The women arrived too late in the growing season to plant their saved flower seeds around their newly hewn out home. As the long winter ended, the women were encouraged by seeing the white blooms of the Sarvis tree. They carried the blooms to funerals and other church ‘sarvises’. The women insured the name stuck by passing along the knowledge that Sarvis blooms contain the promise of Spring to their children.


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  • Reply
    August 15, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    When I was a child my grandmother would take us sarvis hunting in the woods, she would take a sheet and a wooden mall to bang on the trees to knock the berries on the sheet. Sometimes is was necessary to cut the tree down, this was back in the 30”s so the tees were plentiful. Greatest memory of my early childhood.

  • Reply
    wendell watson
    October 7, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    well , we were mountain kid, all over the hills in Campbell county, tn,We cut down a very large sarvis tree to get the berrys, the were red and very tasty. The birds sure love the berry also.

    • Reply
      James Kennedy
      June 12, 2021 at 2:49 pm

      I grew up in Campbell County myself. Caryville to be exact. I didnt know what Sarvis berries were until one summer while fishing with my dad out in the Twin Cove area of Norris lake, he found a small bush loaded with the ripe berries! I live in the suburbs of Cleveland Ohio now, and just this week while fishing, I found a tree loaded with ripe berries! The memories came flooding back, and thats what brought me here today!

      • Reply
        June 12, 2021 at 6:11 pm

        James-thanks for dropping by and for sharing your memory

  • Reply
    Roger Hager
    April 14, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    I live in Bath County, Va. The Sarvis is the first ‘mountain’ Spring bloomer followed by Redbud and Dogwood. This Spring has been unusual to say the least. I just walked to the top of Rough Mountain behind my home. These trees were blooming everywhere. Oddly, I had frequently thought this year, “where are the Sarvis trees?” as the Redwood and Dogwood were in full bloom. They are about 3-4 weeks late blooming in 2017. Anyway I always look forward to their return….in mid/late March…

  • Reply
    Megan Stockton
    August 22, 2016 at 10:34 am

    I love Blind Pig and the Acorn! I come regularly to read your articles, and today I was researching the “sarvis berry” and here I am again.
    I am a writer, and I am currently ghostwriting a biography about a much loved local ball coach in Fentress County, Tennessee. He was telling me about the wild fruits he enjoyed as a child, and he had mentioned “sarvices”. He said he didn’t know the ‘real name’ and so I scribbled ‘sarvices’ in my notes to be sure that I researched this fruit he spoke so highly of. He said he hadn’t had a sarvice berry in 60 years.
    I am on the hunt for a sarvice tree that someone would allow me to gather fruit from so I can give them to him. Fellow readers, anyone in Tennessee out there that knows where one is, or has one growing on their property? I would love a small container of fruit for him, and I would love to try one too!
    Keep up the great work with your amazing articles.

  • Reply
    June 8, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    ELM-thank you for the comment! The only sarvisberries that Im familiar with are red. Maybe the blue ones are something else? Have a great evening!

  • Reply
    emory martin
    June 2, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    The serviceberries here in north Ga are reddish in color Some that I see are blue like blueberries Is there a

  • Reply
    H. Anthony Couch
    January 22, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    My mom and dad spoke of a medicinal purpose of the Sarvis Tree. A tea can be made from the root to treat “yellar janders [juandice]” in new born babies. My mom had a friend who she would always call on to make it when it was requested.

  • Reply
    October 3, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Wow, that question about those berries really started an avalanche of memories about Sarvis (Service) trees! I had been under the mistaken impression that they were kinda rare–but obviously not so.

  • Reply
    Sandy Westfall
    April 6, 2012 at 8:31 am

    We have sarvis trees here in W KY too. My dad grew up in the mountains and taught my mom to make sarvis jelly. We made sarvis jelly when we could gather enough berries. The jelly was a beautiful pink color and tasted similar to apple jelly but more tart.

  • Reply
    September 26, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Moj-thank you for the comment! I have never heard that before-hopefully one of the Blind Pig readers will know about it!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    September 25, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Today my mother, formerly of Perry County, KY, talked about how they would use the wood from the sarvis tree when cooking possum. She claimed it would minimize the harsh game flavor.
    Ever heard of this before?

  • Reply
    Mary Berrong
    August 5, 2011 at 11:39 am

    My mom lived to be 92 and passed away 2 years ago. When I married and moved, we had a tree to bloom very early in the Spring. I asked Mom what kind of tree it was and she said “Sarvis”. Her explanation of the name for the tree was that most folks waited until Spring (when the circuit preacher came around) to get married and since this was the only flower available, the women gathered the blooms for the “sarvis” to decorate for the wedding.

  • Reply
    March 20, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Katie-no they are different trees-but both grow throughout the area of Appalachia.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    March 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Is the sarvis tree another name for the persimmon tree?

  • Reply
    February 22, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    “Sarvis” or Serviceberry trees are common here in NC. I’ve read that the name came from the fact that when the “Sarvis” trees were blooming people in mountain areas could expect the circuit preachers to be making their rounds again for services and for funerals once the ground had thawed enough for burying.

  • Reply
    April 20, 2010 at 8:35 am

    I haven’t seen any, but you can bet I’ll be on the lookout for them.

  • Reply
    April 12, 2010 at 10:45 am

    We do have sarvis trees here, but I never knew that’s what they are called. My favorite spring-flowering tree is the redbud. Do you have them in your area? I spent the weekend in Bullitt Co. KY and the redbuds were ablaze all up and down the slopes, just beautiful! Ours are still in bud, so this year I will get to enjoy the spectacle twice! Thanks for another wonderful learning/sharing experience, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    April 11, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Tipper: I never saw them and they are not in the memory bank.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2010 at 2:54 am

    Pacific Service Berry or Amelanchier alnifolia is one of our favorite shrubs or trees at our place. We find it all over the farm and it certainly does brighten heavy rainy brains.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I don’t know if we have this tree in our area or not, we may have it, but I just didn’t know it was called that. It has beautiful blossoms.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2010 at 10:41 am

    To be honest, there are so many trees blooming in the spring that I don’t know the names of half of them! The Sarvis Tree is definitely one that I’ll look for now.
    There are tall, white-blossomed covered trees across the street from us. The house in in the gully, so it is hard to judge the height but TALL. They have the shape of something like a Dr. Suess Pear — rounder at the bottom but stretched tall and thin the higher you go.
    Could that be one?

  • Reply
    April 8, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    I know we have service berry here, but not sure I could point one out! I might have to see if I can get a bundle of them from the conservation dept. to plant.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 8, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Tipper, I am embarrassed to admit that I’ve never heard of this tree. I’m a mountain girl….I should have heard of it.
    I have seen the tree with white blooms every spring but never knew a name. I even looked at one yeaterday and thought it lovely.
    I bet I’ll remember the name now!

  • Reply
    April 8, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Yes we havae service berries and dthey are blooming, I never knew they had another name. Thanks for the information on them!
    Happy spring!

  • Reply
    April 8, 2010 at 9:02 am

    no sarvis trees here in florida. I don’t remember seeing them when i lived in KY but I think they were there. i do remember the mountains were alive with trees blooming this time of the year, i just did not know what they were. thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    April 8, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Our Sarvis trees are about “bloomed out” green leaves taking over and hiding the blooms…since temperatures have been nearly 80’s and Easter service (sarvis) has passed!…I love the Sarvis (Service berry tree) a true sign of Spring…and the fact that it blooms in accordance with the varying dates of Easter…..
    I can always write that down….as Easter service is within a week when the Sarvis blooms….at least it’s true on my south facing hill….

  • Reply
    April 8, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Since I am from the mountains also, I definitely know about Sarvis trees…. You can drive in the Smokies or the mountains in Spring and see them blooming all over the place…. Oh–how I love spring.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    April 7, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    I like all the explanations!
    We have quite a few sarvis trees on the mountain side in full bloom just now — so beautiful!

  • Reply
    April 7, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    I’ve never even heard of a Sarvis tree! But then I come from the deserts of Utah–a completely different world isn’t it?!

  • Reply
    April 7, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Shirley-it does bear fruit-small berries similar to blueberries. Most folks (including me) never get to eat the fruit cause the birds get to them first. Since the trees grow tall and skinny-its hard for most folks to gather the fruit.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    April 7, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Julie-Sorry you couldn’t see the whole tree in the photos. Sarvis trees are tall and skinny-at least thats how I describe them. They may grow to be 30 to 40 feet tall but their girth doesn’t get very big.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    April 7, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Can’t say that we do. I certainly haven’t heard of them, but I can’t tell from the pictures if I’ve ever seen one.

  • Reply
    April 7, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    I’m not familiar with this tree. Does it bear fruit of any kind?

  • Reply
    April 7, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    I have never heard of Sarvis trees before. I love the stories and like you my favorite is the last. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    April 7, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Cool theories as to the name! I’ve never heard of them!
    Cute pic of you when you were little!

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    April 7, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I always enjoy seeing the sarvis tree blooming each spring. This sure brings back many mountain memories of growing up in this area. Your blog is always so interesting. I noticed my friend, and used to be neighbor, Eva Nell Mull Wyke,commented on your blog.

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    April 7, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    I probably have come across this tree but really didn’t know what it was called … thanks for the info.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull WIke, Ph.D.
    April 7, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Yes indeed! I have a mighty tall Sarvis tree blooming right a long side a beautiful redbud! Back in the Cove, we have a Savis which has bloomed for many a year! My daddy’s story about the Savis was connected to the burial of folks who had passed away during the winter. The ground was too froze to dig a grave. When the Savis tree bloomed the folks knew the earth was warm enough to dig the grave and have the Savis (funeral)!
    I like your explaination of the ‘women folks’ who declared the blossoms as being fine for carrying to church – for the Savis! Beautiful!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Trixie Goforth
    April 7, 2010 at 11:18 am

    This is real good, honey! Thanks for this blog. Don’t get to it as much as I’d like to. Things are slow on Facebook right now, but when they ramp back up, I’m going to suggest this to people interested in App. It’s the BEST!

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