By Brenda Bravo-Ramirez
Symphoricarpos albus also known as the common snowberry, gets its name from its round and fluffy, creamy white fruit that resembles a snowball. The common snowberry blooms into a dainty pink flower during the spring and summer seasons. Although the fruit may look a bit temping to eat, it is not edible. The common snowberry is high in saponins, which are mildly toxic to humans and pets, but very beneficial for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.
Saponins is a toxic compound that is present in soapwort and creates foam when shaken or mixed with water. Low amounts of saponins can pass through the body with little to no harm. Products like shampoos, facial cleaners, and cosmetic creams, etc. contain low levels of saponins.
The common snowberry is part of the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae) and is native to North and Central America. It has about 15 different species and 12 species can be found throughout the United States.
Their habitat ranges from dry to moist, but can adapt to various conditions. They can grow up between 3 and 6 feet tall and live for at least 40 years. Because the common snowberry is a native shrub, it is drought tolerant and can survive with low quantities of water. Their water level should be enough to keep the soil wet, but not saturated.
The common snowberry was traditionally used as medicine in various Native American tribes. The berries were crushed and rubbed on the skin to treat burns, warts, rashes and sores. They were also rubbed in the armpits as an antiperspirant. Tea made from the stem and root of the plant was used to treat fevers and stomach disorders. Hunting tribes would use the common snowberry to their advantage when fishing by creating a small dam and releasing crushed berries into the water. The toxic berries would attract the fish, suffocating them and bringing them up to the surface.
To learn more about common snowberry, click here.