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This ornamental deciduous shrub in the honeysuckle family grows 3-5' tall and wide and forms a bushy, rounded shape in full-to-part sun.  It adapts to a wide range of soils and conditions, which makes it useful for both drier AND soggier areas.  Common snowberry—also known as waxberry--produces bell-shaped, pinkish-white flowers that appear in clusters June through July, followed by clusters of pale green berries that ripen to creamy white by late summer or early autumn.  In winter, the bare branches are laden with bunches of the waxy drupes, giving rise to another common name, “ice apple.”  Snowberry spreads vigorously through rhizomes and, if given space, will create a thicket. It’s effective at controlling erosion on slopes, and it’s used in restoration and mine reclamation projects.  It tolerates poor soil and, after a year of regular watering, will tolerate drought.  


Native habitats include stream banks, swampy thickets, dry or wet open woods, and woodland borders.  In Ohio, snowberry is presumed to be extirpated (extinct in the wild). Plant as a pruned hedge, in a mixed hedgerow, in dry woodland gardens, in rain gardens, or in naturalized landscapes.  


Plant Characteristics:

Most typically grows 3-5’ tall and wide.


Flowering and fruit production is best in full sun, but tolerates part-sun.


Grows in dry or wet, well-drained clay, sandy, loamy, and rocky soils.


Tight clusters of 2-10 pink-to-white, ¼” long, five-lobed, cup-shaped flowers occur on short stalks at branch tips.  The plant is self-pollinating, and its short stamens, styles, and stigmas are hidden in the flower cups.  White, berry-like drupes are up to ½” wide and contain two nutlets.


Leaves are light green, up to 2” long and 1” wide, egg shaped, and sometimes serrated and irregularly lobed.  They appear opposite on erect, wiry branches.  The thin, gray bark splits as it ages to reveal a purple-brown underlayer.   


Wildlife Value:

Snowberry is a host plant for 20 species of Lepidoptera larvae, including snowberry clearwing and hummingbird clearwing moths and specialist Vashti sphinx moth.  Songbirds, ground birds, small mammals, and other browsers use this plant for food, cover, and nesting sites. 


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

Crushed berries were rubbed on the skin to treat burns, warts, rashes and sores; they were rubbed on armpits as an antiperspirant.  An infusion of plant parts was used as an eyewash for sore eyes.  A tea made from the roots was used for stomach disorders, and a tea made from the twigs was used for fevers.


This plant contains saponins, which cause gastrointestinal problems and dizziness when consumed. However, some Native Americans still consumed them fresh or dried.  


The berries were used as a shampoo. Branches were tied together to make brooms, and the stems were used to make bird arrows.



Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus

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