|Snowberry – Symphoricarpus albus|
There are approximately 15 species in the plant genus symphoricarpos (also known as snowberry or ghostberry). You’ll find common snowberry here in the Pacific Northwest. The distribution of snowberry can be found from Alaska to Southern California.The snowberry plant is diverse in its growing conditions. It can be found in dry and moist habitats, on slopes, in forests, open clearings, and rocky slopes. It occasionally can be found in the wetlands.
A green leafy plant most of the year, it sprouts small flowers in shades of pink to white, eventually growing the stark white berry fruit. It spreads and grows by root suckers and can tolerate poor soil and neglect. The snowberry has fire resistance properties and are beneficial in reclamation areas such as mining and controlling erosion on slopes.
The fruit ripens in the fall months and lasts through winter. Although used by Indigenous Peoples for various remedies, including making a shampoo, treating burns, and used as an antiperspirant, they are considered poisonous to humans. The berries are also very toxic to some species of wildlife such as fish. Some hunting tribes would put large quantities of snowberries in the water to kill the fish making a plentiful catch for the tribe. Other animals such as deer, sheep, elk, grouse, and bears can eat the fruit. The shrubs provide ground cover and adequate nesting for small animals and birds.
|Think of the snowberry like the poison apple in the Snow White fairytale. On the trail it may be tempting to pick and eat, but better to pass and not fall into endless sleep!|
By: SHADOW Volunteer, Sandy Brecker