Shepherdia canadensis

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Shepherdia canadensis
Shepherdia canadensis 2 RF.jpg
Leaves and berries
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Elaeagnaceae
Genus: Shepherdia
S. canadensis
Binomial name
Shepherdia canadensis
  • Elaeagnus canadensis (L.) A.Nelson
  • Hippophae canadensis L.
  • Lepargyrea canadensis (L.) Greene

Shepherdia canadensis, commonly called Canada buffaloberry, russet buffaloberry,[2] soopolallie, soapberry, or foamberry (Ktunaxa: kupaʔtiǂ,[3]) is one of a small number of shrubs of the genus Shepherdia that bears edible berries.


The plant is a deciduous shrub of open woodlands and thickets, growing to a maximum of 1–4 metres (3+12–13 feet). The fruit is usually red, but one variety has yellow berries. The berries have a bitter taste.

It is a non-legume nitrogen fixer.[4]


The common name of the plant in British Columbia is "soopolallie", a word derived from the historic Chinook Jargon trading language spoken in the North American Pacific Northwest in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The name is a composite of the Chinook words "soop" (soap) and "olallie" (berry).[5]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The species is widespread in all of Canada, except in Prince Edward Island, and in the western and northern United States, including Alaska[6] and Idaho.[7]


Some Canadian First Nations peoples such as Nlaka'pamux (Thompson), St'at'imc (Lillooet), and Secwepemc (Shuswap) in the Province of British Columbia extensively collect the berries. The bitter berries are not directly consumed but rather processed as "sxusem", also spelled "sxushem" and "xoosum" or "hooshum" ("Indian ice cream"). Collection involves placing a mat or tarpaulin below the bushes, hitting the branches, collecting the very ripe fruits, mixing with other sweet fruit such as raspberries, crushing the mixture, and then beating of the mixture to raise the foam characteristic of the dish.

The berry is both sweet and bitter, and is possibly comparable to the taste of sweetened coffee. The First Nations peoples who prepare a dish with it believe that the berry has many health properties, but the saponin chemicals it contains (which create a foam when whipped into a dessert dish)[8] may cause gastrointestinal irritation if large quantities are consumed. Native-themed restaurants in British Columbia have occasionally offered the berries on their menus.[5]

Unrelated plants in the genus Sapindus produce toxic saponins and are also commonly denominated "soapberry".[9]


  1. ^ The Plant List, Shepherdia canadensis (L.) Nutt.
  2. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Shepherdia canadensis". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  3. ^ "FirstVoices: Nature / Environment - place names: words. Ktunaxa". Retrieved 2012-07-07.
  4. ^ "SPECIES: Shepherdia canadensis". Fire Effects Information System (FEIS). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Retrieved 10 June 2022.
  5. ^ a b Turner, Nancy J., Laurence C. Thompson, M. Terry Thompson, and Annie Z. York. 1990. Thompson Ethnobotany. Royal British Columbia Museum: Victoria. Pp. 209-11.
  6. ^ Biota of North America Program 2014 state-level distribution map
  7. ^ Benito Baeza (March 20, 2017). "Idaho Fish and Game Ask Idahoans Not to Plant Japanese Yew". KLIX. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
  8. ^ Angier, Bradford (1974). Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books. p. 42. ISBN 0-8117-0616-8. OCLC 799792.
  9. ^ Xu, Y; Gao, Y; Chen, Z; et al. (2021-06-02). "Metabolomics analysis of the soapberry (Sapindus mukorossi Gaertn.) pericarp during fruit development and ripening based on UHPLC-HRMS". Scientific Reports. 11: 11657. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-91143-0. PMC 8172880. PMID 34079016.

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