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Symphoricarpos albus laevigatus - (Fernald.)S.F.Blake.                
Common Name Snowberry
Family Caprifoliaceae
Synonyms S. racemosus laevigatus. S. rivularis.
Known Hazards The fruit contains saponins. Although toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm. They are also broken down by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins but it would take extremely large doses of many kilos of fruit from this plant in order to produce toxic symptoms[65]. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K].
Habitats Banks and flats in canyons and near streams below 1200 metres in California[71].
Range Western N. America. Naturalized in Britain[17].
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun


Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of shrub
Symphoricarpos albus laevigatus is a deciduous Shrub growing to 3 m (9ft) by 2 m (6ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone 3. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Sep to November. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.It is noted for attracting wildlife.

USDA hardiness zone : Coming soon

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.
It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

Symphoricarpos albus laevigatus Snowberry

Symphoricarpos albus laevigatus Snowberry
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; not Deep Shade; Hedge;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Fruit.
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked[2, 105, 161]. An insipid flavour, it is best if cooked[177]. The fruit is rather boring[K]. The fruit is about 15mm in diameter[200]. See the notes at top of page regarding possible toxicity.
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Disinfectant;  Diuretic;  Febrifuge;  Laxative;  Ophthalmic;  Poultice;  Salve;  Skin;  Stomachic;  TB;  VD;  

Snowberry was commonly employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who valued it especially for the saponins it contains. These saponins can be toxic, but when applied externally they have a gentle cleansing and healing effect upon the skin, killing body parasites and helping in the healing of wounds. The native Americans used it to treat a variety of complaints but especially as an external wash on the skin[257]. The plant is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. Any internal use of this plant should be carried out with care, and preferably under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. See the notes above on toxicity. The whole plant is disinfectant, diuretic, febrifuge and laxative[257]. An infusion of the stems has been drunk to treat stomach problems and menstrual disorders[213]. A decoction of the leaves has been used in the treatment of colds[257]. A poultice of the chewed leaves has been applied, or an infusion of the leaves has been used as a wash, in the treatment of external injuries[257]. A weak solution of the stems and leaves has been used as a wash for children whilst a stronger solution is applied to sores[213]. The fruit has been eaten, or used as an infusion, in the treatment of diarrhoea[257]. An infusion of the fruit has been used as an eye wash for sore eyes[257].The berries have been rubbed on the skin as a treatment for burns, rashes, itches and sores[257]. The berries have also been rubbed on warts in order to get rid of them - this treatment needs to be carried out at least three times a day for a period of a few weeks[257]. A poultice of the crushed leaves, fruit and bark has been used in the treatment of burns, sores, cuts, chapped and injured skin[257]. An infusion of the roots has been used in the treatment of fevers (including childhood fevers), stomach aches and colds[257]. A decoction of the root bark has been used in the treatment of venereal disease and to restore the flow of urine[257]. An infusion of the root has been used as an eyewash for sore eyes[257]. An infusion of the whole plant has been drunk and also applied externally in the treatment of skin rashes[257]. A decoction of the roots and stems has been used in the treatment of the inability to urinate, venereal disease, tuberculosis and the fevers associated with teething sickness[257].
Other Uses
Broom;  Cosmetic;  Disinfectant;  Hair;  Hedge;  Hedge;  Soap;  Soil stabilization.

Plants have extensive root systems and are used to stabilize soils on banks and slopes[200]. The branches can be tied together and used as a broom[99, 257]. The berries contain saponins and have been used as a hair wash[257]. A mild decoction of the wood has been used as a cleansing wash for babies[257]. The crushed berries have been rubbed into the armpits as an antiperspirant[257]. Very tolerant of trimming, it can be grown as a medium to tall hedge[29]. Its main drawback as a hedge is its propensity to sucker[K].
Cultivation details                                         
Tolerates most soils and conditions, including poor soils and amongst the roots and under the drip of trees[11, 200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers a well-drained soil[200]. Does well in sun or shade[1]. Tolerates urban pollution and maritime exposure[200]. A very hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to about -40°c[200]. A very ornamental but invasive plant, spreading by means of suckers[1, 11]. Its flowers are much visited by bees and the fruit is very attractive to wild life[1, 94]. There are some named varieties, developed for their ornamental value[11]. 'Constance Spry' bears a copious crop of large round berries. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200].
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed requires 3 months warm then 5 months cold stratification[98]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame[113]. Cuttings of mature wood, 15 - 25cm long preferably with a heel, in a sheltered bed outdoors in winter. High percentage[78, 200]. Division of suckers in winter. They can be planted straight Tu into their permanent positions.
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[29]Shepherd. F.W. Hedges and Screens.
A small but informative booklet giving details of all the hedging plants being grown in the R.H.S. gardens at Wisley in Surrey.
[71]Munz. A California Flora.
An excellent flora but no pictures. Not for the casual reader.
[78]Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
[94]Sweet. M. Common Edible and Useful Plants of the West.
Useful wild plants in Western N. America. A pocket guide.
[98]Gordon. A. G. and Rowe. D. C. f. Seed Manual for Ornamental Trees and Shrubs.
Very comprehensive guide to growing trees and shrubs from seed. Not for the casual reader.
[99]Turner. N. J. Plants in British Columbian Indian Technology.
Excellent and readable guide.
[105]Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World.
The most comprehensive guide to edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
[113]Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
[161]Yanovsky. E. Food Plants of the N. American Indians. Publication no. 237.
A comprehensive but very terse guide. Not for the casual reader.
[177]Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption.
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[213]Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food.
A nice book to read though it is difficult to look up individual plants since the book is divided into separate sections dealing with the different medicinal uses plus a section on edible plants. Common names are used instead of botanical.
[257]Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
Mon Apr 25 18:05:42 2005
Elizabeth H.
Lucy Wed Feb 8 2006
what are some of the snowberries's friends?(plant's that the snowberriy hangs out with reguarly)
Elizabeth H.
John Mon May 22 2006
But what kills a snowberry ?
Elizabeth H.
Pat Gould Tue Jul 24 2007
Invasive isn't adequate to describe how this plant has taken over in my garden. Is there any way of controlling it or even better of killing it altogether. I have tried a good systemic shrubkiller but without success. Please Help Thank You Pat Gould
Elizabeth H.
Peter Light Mon Sep 29 2008
Pat, there are two ways to get rid of a plant - dig it all up, or exclude light. Cover with large sheets of cardboard, well overlapped. There are ways to immediately plant over-top (see "permaculture" and "sheet mulching". _
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Subject : Symphoricarpos albus laevigatus  

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