Symphoricarpos albus (Snowberry)
|Also known as:||Common Snowberry, White Snowberry|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; average to dry soil; open forest, forest edges, Jack pine stands, bluffs, barrens, outcrops|
|Bloom season:||June - July|
|Plant height:||12 to 40 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Short, tight clusters of 2 to 10 nodding, short-stalked flowers at branch tips, sometimes arising singly from leaf axils near the branch tips. Flowers are pink to nearly white, about ¼ inch long, cup to bell-shaped with 5 lobes (occasionally 4) that are not spreading and are about as long as or shorter than the tube.
Hidden inside the tube are 5 short stamens and a white style with a dome-shaped stigma at the tip. The style and inner surface of the lobes and tube are covered in long, white hairs. At the base of the flower is a light green, hairless ovary.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are opposite, ½ to 1½ inches long, up to 1 inch wide, oval-elliptic to egg-shaped to nearly round, blunt to rounded at the tip, mostly rounded at the base, on a short, finely hairy stalk. Edges are toothless or sometimes with a few shallow lobes or large, rounded teeth. The upper surface is hairless to sparsely hairy, dark green to blue-green, the lower paler and hairy. New twigs are yellowish to reddish brown, finely hairy when young becoming hairless.
Older bark is thin and gray and often splits, revealing a purple-brown underlayer. Stems are erect, few to many-branched, single or multiple from the base and may reach up to ½ inch diameter near the base. Plants sucker from creeping rhizomes, forming loose colonies.
Fruit is a round, white, berry-like drupe up to ½ inch in diameter that may persist through winter. Inside each fruit are 2 nutlets.
Snowberry is a common shrub of Minnesota's forested regions, found primarily in sandy or rocky soil in open woods, forest edges, bluffs and barrens. Though references note it can reach 40 inches (1 m) tall, it rarely gets much above knee-high here. It is one of two native Symphoricarpos species in Minnesota, the other being Wolfberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis), which has larger (and more numerous) stalkless flowers with widely spreading lobes, revealing the long stamens and styles, where Snowberry has smaller, short-stalked flowers with lobes that are not spreading, hiding the stamens and styles, plus has fruit a brighter white and about twice the size of Wolfberry. Wolfberry is also more likely to be found in open grasslands while Snowberry is more often a forest or forest edge species. A third species, Coralberry (S. orbiculatus), a more southern species not considered native to Minnesota, has yellowish-green flowers and red-purple fruit. There are apparently 2 varieties of S. albus, though the DNR does not separate them: a western variety, var. laevigatus (a.k.a. S. rivularis), is a more robust plant with larger leaves, more numerous flowers, and is common in the nursery trade; var. albus, described above, is found in Minnesota.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken at Interstate State Park, Chisago County, St. Croix State Park, Pine County, and in Cook County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook and Pine counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?
on: 2021-01-02 23:51:51
Growing in my woods near Pillsbury Forest.
on: 2021-08-09 19:54:48
One large plant growing in the SNA as well as a few small spots along a trail in Kunkel WMA in the far north part of Sherburne county.
on: 2022-02-10 10:41:17
This snowberry, albus, has flowers that look different from the S. albus Prairie Moon offers (based on a comparison of photos). Probably a question for them, but I wonder if they are selling the one you mention, in the trade, laevigatus.
on: 2022-10-14 20:52:01
At my parents' house in Duluth, on the East side of the house there were a couple of Snowberry plants growing in the shade on the left side side of the front steps, behind the trimmed Arborvitae hedge and near a very tall columnar Arborvitaes growing by the front steps. They survived there for 50 years, never failing to sparsely produce a few 1/2" spongy white fruits on a few branches, and small pink and white flowers here and there. I liked them because they were small simple bushes, never caused any problems, and were rare. Unfortunately my sister had them removed a few years ago.
on: 2022-11-27 16:42:53
Small plants growing in crevices of a graywacke outcrop.
on: 2023-01-14 11:07:27
Update on Snowberry confusion. I have two shrubs from a native plant nursery in MN grassland country. The flowers are open, stamens out, and appear stalkless in my photos. They sold it to me as Snowberry (albus), but it seems they have incorrectly labeled occidentalis as albus.