Symphoricarpos albus

Common Snowberry


The Basics

Taxonomy: Kingdom - Plantae (plants). Subkingdom - Tracheobionta (vascular plants). Superdivision - Spermatophyta (seed plants). Division - Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants). Class - Magnoliopsida. Order - Dipsacales. Family - Caprifoliaceae . Genus -Symphoricarpos Duham - Symphoricarpos albus (L.) S.F. Blake

Ecology: Across its distribution, common snowberry is classified as dominant or subdominant in a variety of habitat and community types and vegetation associations. Species commonly associated with common snowberry include oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor) in California's hardwood rangelands , ninebark (Physocarpus malvaceus) in Oregon, bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) in south Dakota and eastern Wyoming [3], and Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis) in eastern Washington.


Symphoricarpos albus ,is an erect, deciduous shrub, producing a stiff, branching main stem and often several smaller shoots from a rhizome. It can spread and colonize an area to form a dense thicket.[5] It reaches 12 m (3.36.6 ft) in maximum height. Leaves are oppositely arranged on the spreading branches. They are generally oval, differing in size and shape, and up to 5 cm (2.0 in) long, or slightly larger on the shoots. The inflorescence is a raceme of up to 16 flowers. Each flower has a small, five-toothed calyx of sepals. The bell-shaped, rounded corolla is about 0.5 cm (0.20 in) long and bright pink in color. It has pointed lobes at the mouth and the inside is filled with white hairs. The fruit is a fleshy white berry-like drupe about a centimeter wide which contains two seeds.


Fire effects: Common snowberry is top-killed by fire, but belowground parts are very resistant to fire. Variable response to fire has been reported but in general, light- to moderate-severity fires increase stem density, and common snowberry survives even severe fires . To eliminate rhizomatous sprouting, fire intensity must be severe enough to kill the roots and rhizome system. Common snowberry is classified as a "survivor" and has high resistance to fire. It is a rhizomatous species with rhizomes buried 2 to 5 inches (5-12.5 cm) deep in mineral soil. After fire has killed the top of the plant, new growth sprouts from these rhizomes . Growth in the 1st postfire year is highly variable and depends on conditions at specific site, but is generally considered to be good. With light to moderate soil disturbance, sprouting will return common snowberry coverage in a year and common snowberry may produce fruit the 1st year. Sprout height can reach one-half to three-fourths of prefire stem height in the 1st year and equal prefire height in 4 years. As a rhizomatous sprouter, it is among the first to recolonize a site after fire. Regeneration from buried seed is favored by fires of low severity and short duration that remove little of the soil organic level. 


Common snowberry can regenerate by seeds, but rhizomes are the primary method of reproduction. Rhizomes are occasionally connected in a mass of woody tissue from which multiple stems can regenerate; however, separate rhizomes are usually produced from which single stems arise. One study in an east-central Washington ponderosa pine/common snowberry community found common snowberry sprouted from roots, rhizomes, underground organs, or other perennial plant parts, but did not establish from seeds. The seeds of this shrub are commonly dispersed by birds after they eat the fruit. Common snowberry seeds will sprout in a nursery setting. However, nutlets of common snowberry are extremely difficult to germinate because they have a hard, tough, impermeable covering and only a partially developed embryo..

Species Distribution


USDA Plants Database
USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

USFS Plant Database
Habeck, R. J. 1992. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.

Flora of North America
Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 19+ vols. New York and Oxford.

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Burke Museum. 2016. Abies amabilis [Online]. University of Washington.