What Is A Snowberry Bush? - Knowledgebase Question

State College, PA
Question by jgj42
January 28, 1998
My son wants to plant a snowberry bush--something Lewis and Clark apparently brought back to Jefferson--but I can't find out anything about it! Since it is native to the Pacific Northwest I have my doubts about how it would fare here in PA (we live in Zone 5). How big do they grow? What are their cultural requirements?


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Answer from NGA
January 28, 1998

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The problem with common names....it's hard to be sure just what plant it is! The plant with the botanical name Symphoricarpos albus (or S. racemosus) is called either snowberry or waxberry. It is native in dry and rocky soils, from Quebec to Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. It grows to a height of about 3 feet.

Another plant, also called snowberry, is Symphoricarpos rivularis (or S. albus laevigatus). This shrub is native from Alaska to Montana and California. It grows toa height of 3 to 10 feet.

Another possibility is Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica). It is commonly referred to (at least where I live) as a Snow Berry. This, too, is native to Pennsylvania. It is a shrub that grows to about 9' in height and 3-8 feet wide. The berries are silvery-white, and look like they are covered in snow. It is very resistant to pests and disease, grows well in just about any soil, and will take part shade or sun. It is hardy in zones 2-7. You do need two or more plants for good berry production.

You can purchase S. albus and M. pensylvanica from Carroll Gardens, 444 E. Main St., Westminster, MD 21157, ph# 800-638-6334. You might ask them if they are familiar with the variety S. albus laevigatus.)

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