snowberry

Symphoricarpos albus laevigatus

Snowberry 6

Snowberry
Snowberry is a densely branched shrub that can reach 3-6 feet tall and can spread out 4-6 feet wide. It is in a small genus of about 15 species in the honeysuckle family known as Caprifoliaceae. Its botanical name is Symphoricarpos and it is derived from the Greek words “symphorein” (to bear together) and “karpos” (fruit) which refers to the closely packed berries the species produces. Other names for Snowberry are: Waxberry, Ghostberry, or Bola de Nieve in Spanish.
All of the species in the Caprifoliaceae family are native to North and Central America except for one which is native to China. The leaves of this plant are long and entirely rounded with 1-2 lobes at the base (1.5-5 cm long). The flowers it produces are greenish white to pink that appear in small clusters of 5-15 together in some, paired, or alone in others. They bloom anywhere from May to September.
The fruit is 1-2 cm round, soft, and is mainly white in color with some variations. Once the berries are broken open, the fruit inside looks like fine, sparkling granular snow. The flesh is spongy and contains 2 (2-5 mm long) whitish, egg shaped stone seeds which are more or less flattened containing endosperm and a small embryo. The seeds have a tough, hard, and impermeable covering that are very hard to germinate and may be dormant for up to 10 years. Ingesting the berries for humans causes mild symptoms of vomiting, dizziness, and slight sedation in children due to the isoquinoline alkaloid chelidonine as well as other alkaloids.
Snowberry can be found along streams, in swamps, moist clearings, and open forests. It prefers well drained, heavy soils (like clay) with areas that provide enough sun.
Snowberry’s flowers attract bees and butterflies which are responsible for the pollination. The berries on the bush remain on the branches for almost the entire winter serving as an important source of food for: quails, grouse, pheasants, and bears. Rabbits and mice eat the stem of Snowberry bushes; while elk and white-tailed deer feed on the leaves of Snowberry. Fruit eating animals facilitate dispersal of seeds. Also, many birds and small mammals use snowberry as shelter or as an ideal place for nesting.
Snowberry has many medicinal uses. An infusion made from snowberries can be used in treatment of sore, watery eyes. Fresh snowberries can soothe burns, rashes, and sores on the skin. The root and stem of Snowberry can be used in treatment of urinary retention, tuberculosis, venereal diseases, and fever associated with toothache. Crushed snowberries are used as natural lotion for the hands in Russia. Native Americans used the fruit of Snowberry as a natural shampoo (due to the foaming properties of this plant) and to accelerate the digestion of fatty meals.
References
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphoricarpos
http://pnwplants.wsu.edu/PlantDisplay.aspx?PlantID=298
http://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_syal.pdf

By Amadeus, age 6 and Sasha (his dad) 6

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) James Gaither, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND), http://www.flickr.com/photos/13892958@N07/3742775692
  2. (c) amadeus9, all rights reserved, uploaded by amadeus9, http://www.inaturalist.org/photos/2763835
  3. (c) amadeus9, all rights reserved, uploaded by amadeus9, http://www.inaturalist.org/photos/2763836
  4. (c) amadeus9, all rights reserved, uploaded by amadeus9, http://www.inaturalist.org/photos/2763837
  5. (c) dinozen, all rights reserved, uploaded by dinozen, http://www.inaturalist.org/photos/2950761
  6. (c) dinozen, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA)

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