Mountain Snowberry

Mountain Snowberry
©Intermountain Herbarium

Common Name(s):

Mountain Snowberry
Utah Snowberry

Scientific Name:

Symphoricarpos oreophilus A. Gray

Scientific Name Synonyms:

Symphoricarpos utahensis Rydb.




Life Span: Perennial

Origin: Native

Season: Cool

Growth Characteristics: Mountain snowberry is a low growing, erect and sometimes trailing mountain shrub, with spreading to arching branches. It averages 2 to 4 feet in height, but plants on good sites can grow up to 5 feet. Reproduction is by seed and sometimes by layering.

Flowers/Inflorescence: Flowers are white or pink, bell shaped, ¼ to ½ inch long. Found solitary or in pairs.

Fruits/Seeds: Fruits are small, light green to white berries, up to ½ inch long.

Leaves: Opposite, and short stalked. Round, elliptical, or thin oval shaped. Top of leaf is usually slightly hairy. Underside of leaves has a gray to whitish hair, and five prominent veins.

Stems: Young twigs usually lacking hairs, but occasionally densely hairy. Older twigs have reddish-brown shreddy bark. buds are light brown.

Ecological Adaptions:

Snowberry occurs on the edges of riparian zones, in woodlands, and in moist areas of the mountain brush zone, at elevations between 4,800 and 10,500 feet.

Soils: Occurs in sandy loam to clay loam soils. Does not tolerate much alkalinity or salinity.

Associated Species: Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, aspen, chokecherry.

Uses and Management:

Because of its abundance and wide distribution, mountain snowberry is an important source of forage on many mountain ranges. Although not highly nutritious or palatable, mountain snowberry is frequently one of the first species to leaf out, making it a highly sought after food in the early spring. Use by livestock and big game is moderate throughout the summer and declines in fall. Small mammals and birds utilize the fruits. Mountain snowberry's low growth form makes its foliage easily available. Plants withstand browsing well and produce numerous basal sprouts following browsing.

Due to its rhizomatous nature, Mountain snowberry is useful for revegetation of disturbed sites such as road cuts, landscape and recreational plantings, wildlife habitat improvement, and increasing biodiversity on moist sites.

Native Americans used the fruits as an ematic and laxative, and steeped the roots to treat colds and stomachaches.