HOW TO GROW THE SNOWBERRY - Symphoricarpos albus

Naturalised snowberry growing in a mixed hedge
How to grow the common snowberry - Symphoricarpos albus

The common snowberry - Symphoricarpos albus, is an ornamental fruiting shrub native to both Canada and the northern and western United States. It is a plant valued by Native Americans who used various parts of the plant as a medicine, the crushed berries as soap, and sometimes as a food for livestock (although the berries are poisonous to humans, causing vomiting, bloody urine and delirium!).  The wood of the snowberry was also particularly suitable for making arrow shafts, something that early European colonists would have been only all too aware of! Symphoricarpos albus was introduced to English scientists in 1879.

1918 Botanical illustration of the common snowberry - Symphoricarpos albus
How to grow the common snowberry - Symphoricarpos albus
It is a small, deciduous shrub which under favourable conditions can be expected to reach an approximate height of 3 metres by 2 metres wide, although it has a habit of spreading further by suckers. The broadly ovate leaves are pale to mid-green with a grey caste. The bright pink blooms are small and rather insignificant, appearing from July to September. However it is the pure-white berries for which Symphoricarpos albus is most noted for. These are globose or ovoid, approximately 12 mm across and produced in abundance from September onwards. While the berries are known to contain a number of poisons, they tend to cause vomiting when eaten so the effects of the toxins are rarely encountered.

In its native habitat, is generally found growing on the banks and flats in canyons and near streams below 1200 metres. When planted in gardens it has proven itself to be a surprisingly robust species tolerating most soils and conditions. It will perform well in both well-drained soils and heavy clay and is equally at home in full sun or shade.

Thin out overgrown specimens and remove unwanted suckers between October and February.

Weird fact!

Due to the extreme whiteness of the snowberry berries, they also have the common name of 'Corpse Berry'! So called as some believe that they are a food source for wandering ghosts.

For related articles click onto the following links:
CALLICARPA BODINIERI var. giraldii 'Profusion'
HOW TO GROW THE SNOWBERRY - Symphoricarpos albus

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