The white “berries” of the Common Snowberry makes this shrub a popular ornamental with people. Though they’re small (around a centimeter wide), the Pacific Northwest native’s berry-like fruit, called drupes, are an important food source for local wildlife, great for attracting bighorn sheep, bears, cattle, birds, and small mammals. But the Common Snowberry’s drupes aren’t the only useful part of this shrub; Native Americans used the plant for medicine, soap, and even used the wood for arrow shafts.
Common Snowberries can grow as separate shrubs, reaching a maximum height of 1-2 meters, or they can spread and form a dense thicket. The leaves are oval-shaped and arranged on symmetrically opposite sides of the stem from each other. Snowberry flowers appear in a tight cluster of up to 16 individual flowers, bright pink in color.
Contributing to the popularity of the Common Snowberry as a local native is its use for erosion control in wetland/riparian zones. The shrub prefers wet soil and can tolerate flooding conditions better than others. The Common Snowberry is planted in ecological restoration projects on distressed sites, such as abandoned mines.
This Native Plant of the Month has been brought to you by the City of Beaverton’s Landscape and Urban Forestry Department