overlay image

Manitoba Museum

Honeysuckle (Caprifoliaceae)

Western Snowberry

Symphoricarpos occidentalis Hook.

This short-lived prairie plant spreads by underground rhizomes to form large colonies, and so is sometimes used for erosion control. This shrub is also a successful colonizer of disturbed sites. Although hummingbirds are the main pollinators, flower nectar and pollen are attractive to bees, flies, ants, butterflies, and moths. Plants are also a source of food, cover, and nesting sites for birds, small mammals, and browsers. The white berries can be poisonous to humans if eaten.

Flower Colour:

  • White

Flowering Season:

  • Spring
  • Summer

Flowering Months:

  • August
  • July
  • June
  • May

Canadian Rarity Status:

Not rare. Listed as “exotic” in Ontario.

Physical Appearance:

The woody, reddish-brown, branching stems of this small shrub grow 30-100 cm tall. They are hairy, have shredding bark, and persist over the winter. The opposite, stalked leaves are oval to egg-shaped with smooth to sparsely-toothed edges and hairy undersides. White, bell-shaped flowers occur in small clusters in the upper leaf axils. Their tubular bases flare out forming five lobes. Fruits are fleshy, white, berry-like drupes, drying to bluish black in winter.

Similar Species:

Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus (L.) Blake), Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium L.)

Gardening Notes:

Seeds and/or plants may be available from greenhouses and seed supply companies specializing in native plants. Makes a good addition to bird and prairie gardens.

Canadian Distribution:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • Northwest Territories
  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan

Prairie Types:

  • Fescue Prairie
  • Mixed Grass Prairie
  • Tall Grass Prairie


  • Forests
  • Prairies
  • River Valleys
  • Rocky Slopes

Moisture Conditions:

  • Dry
  • Moderate

Light Preference:

  • Full Sun

Soil Preference:

  • Sand
Western Snowberry