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Subject: Douglas fir, Shrub, Sehome Hill Arboretum
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"Snowberry" redirects here. It may also refer to members of the genus Chiococca.
Common Snowberry (S. albus)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Dipsacales
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Genus: Symphoricarpos

About 15 species; see text

Symphoricarpos, with common names in English of Snowberry, Waxberry or Ghostberry, is a small genus of about 15 species of deciduous shrubs in the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae. With the exception of the Chinese coralberry, S. sinensis, which is indigenous to western China, all species are native to North and Central America. The name of the genus is derived from the Greek words συμφορειν (symphorein), meaning "to bear together," and καρπος (karpos), meaning "fruit." It refers to the closely packed berries the species produce.[3]


The Symphoricarpos leaves are 1.5–5 cm long, rounded, entire or with one or two lobes at the base. The flowers are small, greenish-white to pink, in small clusters of 5–15 together in most species, solitary or in pairs in some (e.g. S. microphyllus). The fruit is conspicuous, 1–2 cm in diameter, soft, varying from white (e.g. S. albus) to pink (S. microphyllus) to red (S. orbiculatus) and in one species (S. sinensis), blackish purple. When the white berries are broken open, the fruit inside looks like fine, sparkling granular snow.


Common Snowberry (S. albus) is an important winter food source for quail, pheasant, and grouse, but is considered poisonous to humans. The berries contain the isoquinoline alkaloid chelidonine, as well as other alkaloids. Ingesting the berries causes mild symptoms of vomiting, dizziness, and slight sedation in children.

Selected species

  • Symphoricarpos acutus (A.Gray) Dieck – Sharpleaf snowberry
  • Symphoricarpos albus (L.) S.F.Blake – Common snowberry
    • S. albus var. albus
    • S. albus var. laevigatus (Fernald) S.F.Blake
  • Symphoricarpos ×chenaultii Rehder – Chenault coralberry
  • Symphoricarpos ×doorenbosii Krüssm.
  • Symphoricarpos guadalupensis Correll – McKittrick's snowberry
  • Symphoricarpos hesperius G.N.Jones – Trailing snowberry
  • Symphoricarpos longiflorus A.Gray – Desert snowberry
  • Symphoricarpos mexicanus – Mexican snowberry

Cultivation and uses

Common snowberry is a popular ornamental shrub in gardens, grown for its decorative white fruit and wildlife gardening.

The Chenaultii hybrid coralberries, S. × chenaultii, which have red-stipled white fruit, are hybrids between S. orbiculatus (from northeastern U.S. on into Mexico) and the Mexican S. microphyllus and were originated by Messrs Chenault of Orleans, France, circa 1910. The well-known trailing member of this series, Hancock, comes from 1940. These hybrids are hardy north. Hancock performs splendidly when tumbled over a wall, and, as is Symphoricarpos generally, easily increased by layering. The Chenaultii hybrids are obligately deciduous, even in relatively mild climates, unlike many of the related genus Lonicera.


External links

  • USDA PLANTS Profile
  • Winter ID pictures
  • Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System Notes on poisoning: thin-leaved snowberry
  • images at
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