The white berry of Symphoricarpos albus resembles a snowball or cluster of snowballs. If you cut a snowberry open, the resemblance to snow is even more striking. The inside of the skin has a frosted appearance and the flesh looks like soft snow.
The Snowberry is a member of the Caprifoliaceae or Honeysuckle family in the Dipsacales order. The first part of its Latin name or binomial, Symphoricarpos, means to ‘bear together’ and refers to the way the berries cluster together as below. The second part ‘albus‘ means ‘white’.
This North American shrub is an introduced species that has naturalised in Britain. It arrived in 1817. Oliver Rackham, author of Woodlands, refers to the Snowberry as a ‘gamekeepers’ plant’. It was planted extensively in Britain to provide cover for game.
The Snowberry also provides shelter for small animals.
The seeds inside the Snowberry can remain dormant for up to 10 years. This has not prevented its spread. It extends its territory by suckering prolifically. While it is not listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as an invasive species, there is concern about its steadily invasive characteristics.
Winter Food for Wildlife
Blackbirds will eat snowberries in winter, as do quail, pheasant and grouse. Most birds find white berries unattractive and ignore them. They leave them to fall to the ground uneaten to rot.
Humans and Snowberries
Different sources seem to suggest that Snowberries can and cannot be eaten by humans. Indigenous North Americans used the Snowberry both internally and externally for medicinal purposes. All sources seem to agree that Snowberries can cause digestive upsets in those with sensitive stomachs and should most definitely be avoided by children. They can be susceptible to vomiting, dizziness and slight sedation.
Children have long enjoyed playing with Snowberries. They cause fascination because they make a great sound when popped underfoot on hard footpaths.
Snowberry flowers are generally present between June and September. They are somewhat inconspicuous unless you look closely at the shrub. They are white to pink as below.
Gallery of Snowberry Images
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