Spend any time in the woods on either side of the Cascades, and you will probably encounter our native Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus. It’s also becoming a familiar sight in many urban parks and natural areas, as it is an easy-going, carefree native shrub.

In spring it is fairly unassuming with its small, round-to-oval green leaves and sometimes rather twiggy stature. But it catches more attention when it flowers: Though the blossoms are tiny (less than a half-inch) pinkish-white tubes, they are abundant enough during their long bloom period of late spring to late summer to catch the eye of passers-by and hummingbirds alike. But it is in autumn when the plant’s namesake is realized: the stems are covered with stark white berries that persist after leaf drop and make for an especially interesting and attractive shrub in the winter garden.

Birds are attracted to the berries, but it is also true that the Snowberry’s fruit is not their first favorite choice -- so that means the shrub can be an attractive feature in the garden through the winter and also then available food for birds in the leaner times of late winter.

Symphoricarpos albus

Symphoricarpos albus: Common Snowberry

Snowberry can grow in sun or part shade, in moist, dry, even poor soils. Planted on a slope, it can help prevent erosion, spreading by thick underground rhizomes. Grows 2-4’ x 2-4’.


Symphoricarpos mollis var. hesperius: Creeping Snowberry

There are also native creeping snowberries; the main one west of the Cascades is S. mollis var. hesperius — often used synonymously with S. mollis. Grows 1-2’ tall x 2-5’ wide – Sun to shade but may be more drought tolerant in shadier areas.