PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)

Snowberry is generally not noticeable until winter when its leafless stems are studded in pea-sized white berries. Then you realize a whole colony of plants has been there all along. At this stage they have a kind of fairy-like magical quality because you don’t really notice the slender stems – just a bunch of little white beads apparently floating in the air a couple of feet off the ground.

White Snowberry is native to the PNW and found on exposed roadsides and at the margins of woodlands where it has space to spread into a colony. We have a patch that loves growing under a maple tree and hasn’t spread any further. They typically get 2-3 feet tall. Red Snowberry is native to the Eastern U.S., grows a little larger, and features clusters of dayglo magenta berries throughout winter. Snowberry plants are wonderful for supporting our local ecology, supplying food and shelter for many other living things.

A common representation of Snowberries is that they are poisonous. This is a bit extreme. You can taste one and discover why you will never bother trying it again. It tastes like dry, grainy soap. It has a compound called saponin, which, in greater quantity will likely make you barf and run to the toilet in a hurry, but with flavor like that, there’s really no incentive to keep snacking on them. Other parts of the plant make great medicines.