South Dakota Native Plant Research
Caprifoliaceae : Symphoricarpos occidentalis

Caprifoliaceae : Symphoricarpos occidentalis


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Family Name


Common Name

Western snowberry, Wolfberry

Native American Name

Lakota: uŋšúŋgnasapi hú,


Symphoricarpos occidentalis is a woody perennial shrub with spreading, simple to branched stems, 30–100 cm growing from a creeping rhizome and forming large colonies. The younger branches are green to brown with a fine covering of hairs and the older branched have a thin gray bark that often splits, revealing a reddish-brown underlayer. The simple, opposite leaves are ovate, 2-6 cm long and 1-3.5 cm wide, the upper surface is hairless, dark green to blue green, the lower surface paler and usually with short, stiff hairs especially along the veins. The petioles are 2-7 mm long and the leaf margins are usually entire or have several large, blunt teeth. The inflorescence consists of short, narrow spikes of 6 to 20 sessile flowers, terminal or arising from leaf axils near the branch tips. The flowers have a 5-lobed calyx and a campanulate pale pink to nearly white 5-lobed corolla, 4–10 mm long, with the lobes spreading, as long or longer than the tube and often wider than long. The style is 3–8 mm long and the style and stamens are exserted. The fruit is a globose berry-like drupe, 6–9 mm long, containing 2 nutlets, going from green to white and then blackening as it progresses through the winter into the next spring. Western snowberry blooms from June into August in ravines, on open prairies, woods and hillsides throughout South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Wolfberry is an attractive short shrub with green foliage, showy flowers and white berries that last into the winter. The flowers and fruit attract hummingbirds, native bees and songbirds to the garden. Individual stems tend to be short lived, but new shoots will arise from the rhizome.

Horticulture Notes

Seed Collection: Collect seed in September and October and remove them from the fleshy covering.

Germination: Plant in the fall right after collection. The seeds are hard to germinate and need a long warm period before a very long cold period to break dormancy – often 2 years.

Vegetative Propagation: Separation of rhizome sections in early spring will allow transplanting.

Soils: Well drained gravels to loamy soils.

Light: Full sun to partial shade.

Water: Dry to mesic.

Caprifoliaceae : Symphoricarpos occidentalis