Snowberry offers beauty year-round

January 1, 2008 


    Scientific name: Symphoricarpos albus
    Where found: Roadsides, along trails in moist to dry forests, near rivers
    Places to look: Teddy Bear Cove, Whatcom Falls Park, Sehome Arboretum

Everywhere you go these days — from hiking trails to roadsides — you’re likely seeing bushels of the creamy, white fruit that is the common snowberry.

Some gardeners like planting the shrub, which can grow up to 6 feet, as an ornamental planting. It puts out bell-shaped flowers that are pink to white from May-July, but admire them from afar; their scent has been described as strong and unpleasant.

Its white fruit can be seen through winter.

Also called white coralberry and waxberry, the shrub and its offerings are eaten by livestock and wildlife, as well as birds and small mammals who also use them for shelter.

To humans, the fruit is inedible and considered poisonous by some.

That certainly was the case for some Pacific Northwest aboriginal people, who called them “corpse berry” or “snake’s berry.”

Sources: “Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast,” edited by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon; USDA Plant Guide; eNature.com; “Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest” by Mark Turner and Phyllis Gustafson

Reach Kie Relyea at kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com or 715-2234.

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