Symphoricarpos oreophilus

Mountain 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(Honeysuckle family). Genus -Symphoricarpos Duham.. Species - Symphoricarpos oreophilus A. Gray

Ecology: Mountain snowberry (Symphoricarpos oreophilus) is a dominant shrub species in numerous nonforested and forested communities in the western United States. Habitat types using mountain snowberry as an indicator species have been identified within the Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), white fir (Abies concolor), ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), subalpine fir (A. lasiocarpa), Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii), and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) series. Mountain snowberry also occurs within the pinyon-juniper (Pinus-Juniperus spp.) zone and is a dominant understory species within the quaking aspen type throughout the western mountains. It is a major component on open slopes in the mountain-brush zone, where it may form pure stands. The upper limits of mountain snowberry's elevational range extend into the subalpine zone.


General: Deciduous, erect, branching shrubs 0.5-1.5 m. tall.

Leaves: Leaves opposite, elliptic to elliptic-ovate, 1-3.5 cm. long and 5-25 mm. wide, short-petiolate.

Flowers: Flowers solitary on short, drooping pedicels in the leaf axils, and often also on short, few-flowered terminal racemes; corolla elongate, bell-shaped, noticeably longer than wide, 7-10 mm. long, pink or white, the 5+ lobes to as long as the tube; stamens 5; style 2-4 mm. long, glabrous; ovary 4-celled, inferior.

Fruits: Fruit berry-like, fleshy, broadly ellipsoid, 7-10 mm. long, with 2 seeds, white.


Foragers:Mountain snowberry is readily eaten by all classes of livestock, particularly domestic sheep. Palatability varies in different localities and different plant communities. In general mountain snowberry has greater palatability in the Intermountain region than on more southern or western ranges. Mountain snowberry is a highly valued elk and domestic sheep forage within quaking aspen types in Colorado and Wyoming. Mountain snowberry is an important forage species for deer and elk on high elevation summer ranges. On quaking aspen forest summer range in Utah, mountain snowberry comprised 24% of the diet for elk and 20% for mule deer. Ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasants, and yellow-billed magpies utilize the fruits.

Fore effects: Fires top-kills mountain snowberry. Although plant survival may be variable, mountain snowberry root crowns usually survive even severe fires.


Mountain snowberry is a perennial shrub, bloowming from June through August. Reproduces vegetatively and by seed. Individual plants produce basal sprouts from a root crown; perennating buds are usually located approximately 2-3 cm below the ground surface. Layering has also been observed in mountain snowberry.

Species Distribution


E-Flora of British Columbia
In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2015. E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Plants of British Columbia []. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

USDA Plants Database
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
Distribution Map photo credit

USFS Plant Database
Aleksoff, Keith C. 1999. Symphoricarpos oreophilus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).

Jepson Flora Project
Jepson Flora Project. 2017. Jepson Interchange for California Floristics University of California, Berkeley.

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Burke Museum. 2017. Symphoricarpos oreophilus [Online]. University of Washington.
Photo credit: 2012, G. D. Carr.