Shepherdia canadensis (Canada Buffaloberry)

Plant Info
Also known as: Russet Buffaloberry, Soapberry
Genus:Shepherdia
Family:Elaeagnaceae (Oleaster)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Origin:native
Status:
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry, rocky soil; open woods, forest edges, riverbanks, rocky shores, rock outcrops
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:1 to 10 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: UPL NCNE: UPL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals

[photo of male flowers] Flowers are in leaf axils of short, one-year-old branches, emerging before the leaves. Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants (dioecious), both are green to yellowish, about 1/8 inch across, stalkless, lack petals but have a bowl to urn-shaped calyx with 4 triangular, petal-like lobes. At the base of each lobe is a pair of greenish-yellow nectary glands. Male flowers are clustered 1 to a few in the axils, have 8 well extended stamens, alternating with the nectaries, and the calyx lobes are strongly bent back (reflexed).

[photo of female flowers] Female flowers are single in the axils, somewhat smaller and stiffer than the males, the calyx lobes spreading to reflexed, with a slender, capped style extending from the center. The upper/inner surfaces of the calyx are smooth while outer surfaces are densely covered in rusty colored scales.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and opposite, egg-shaped to lance-elliptic, widest below the middle, 1½ to 2¾ inches long, ¾ to 1¼ inch wide, tip and base rounded, on a short stalk. Edges are toothless, the upper surface dark green and smooth or with scattered star-shaped (stellate) hairs, the lower surface grayish green with dense stellate hairs and scattered rusty scales.

[photo of twig] New twigs are shiny, covered with rusty brown scales, turning brownish gray and eventually shedding the scales. Leaf buds are stalked. Branches are limber and often arching.

[photo of older bark] Older bark is dark gray and rough, the basal stems up to 1¾ inches in diameter.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a fleshy, berry-like drupe, bright red with scattered brownish scales, ¼ to 1/3 inch diameter, with a single hard seed inside.

Notes:

Canada Buffaloberry is common in northern boreal forests and higher elevations in the west, but uncommon in northern Minnesota along its border with Canada, and occasional around the Great Lakes. According to the DNR, extensive searches have been conducted in what should be suitable habitat but far fewer occurrences than expected have been found, possibly due to environmental conditions that are not currently well understood. It was listed as a Special Concern species in 2013. While the fruit might be appealing, it is extremely bitter and "soapy" when crushed, giving it another common name: Soapberry. The only other species with which it might be confused is Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), which also has silvery leaves with stellate hairs, scattered brown scales on the underside and similar red fruit. It, however, is a newly appearing invasive species in southern Minnesota and has fragrant, white, trumpet-shaped flowers and alternate leaves, not opposite.

Please visit our sponsors

  • Wild Ones Twin Cities Chapter

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at PrairieMoon.com!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers

More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in St. Louis County.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.



(required)




Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.