Plant of the day: snowberry

Clusters of stark white berries dangle from leafy stems in the forested understory. Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) is perfectly named for its color.

This pretty bush is in the same family as honeysuckle, and is native to Canada and much of the US (except for the southernmost states). Some sources say that the berries are NOT edible, with symptoms listed as vomiting, dizziness and mild sedation in children. However, west coast tribes ate the fruit both fresh and dry (though they apparently didn’t prefer it). It was also used as a shampoo, a poultice, and a treatment for STDs. The wood was used as arrow shafts and pipe stems.

There are two species of snowberry in Marin, and several others are found throughout California. In Marin, you can tell common snowberry from its cousin, creeping snowberry, because it is taller and doesn’t have hairs on the top of its leaves.

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Filed under Plant of the day, Poisonous

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