[Snowberries: The Genus Symphoricarpos East of the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and Washington]

Wolfberry, Western Snowberry

Symphoricarpos occidentalis

Wolfberry, Western Snowberry: Symphoricarpos occidentalis

The photo above shows a close-up of the widely bell-shaped flowers and developing fruits of western snowberry as seen along the South Fork of the Sun River near Klick's K _ L Ranch at the eastern edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.........July 21, 1999. Note that the corolla lobes are roughly equal to the length of the widely flared tube.

Wolfberry, Western Snowberry: Symphoricarpos occidentalisThe photo at right shows a close-up of the leaves of western snowberry as seen along the North Fork of the Sun River near Klick's K _ L Ranch at the eastern edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness..........August 5, 2000. Note that the leaves are opposite on the stems and the flowers are clustered at the tips of the stem.

Western snowberry is a low to medium height shrub from 30-100 cm high with opposite leaves that spreads readily via rhizomes to form dense stands. The young twigs are typically covered with tiny, fine hairs although glabrous stems may be present too. The leaf blades are broadly elliptic or ovate and measure 2.5-8 cm long and from 1.5-5 cm wide. The leaf margins range from entire to having a few large, blunt, irregular teeth. The blades are typically glabrous above while containing short hairs on the ventral surface, especially on the major veins. The petioles range from 3-10 mm long.

The inflorescences consist of short, compact racemes at the ends of the branches. The corolla measures 5-8 mm long and is typically wider than long. The lobes of the corolla spread widely and are as long as or longer than the widely flaring tube. The inner surface of the corolla tube is hairy, as is the midsection of the style which is exserted from the corolla and roughly 4-7 mm long. The anthers are shorter than the filaments and measure 1.5-2 mm long. The fruit is a whitish, subglobose berry from 6-9 mm long. As with other snowberries, the fruits should not be eaten as they are poisonous to humans.


Western snowberry may be found on open slopes, prairies and moist ground along streams or lakes.


Western snowberry may be found from southern British Columbia south to northern Washington and east to Manitoba, Michigan or Missouri and then south through the Rocky Mts from Montana to Utah and New Mexico.

Paul Slichter