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Symphoricarpos albus 7927.jpg
Common snowberry (S. albus)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Dipsacales
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Subfamily: Caprifolioideae
Genus: Symphoricarpos
Duhamel 1755[1][2]
  • Symphoricarpus Willd. 1818
  • Symphoricarpa Necker 1790
  • Symphoria Pers. 1818
  • Anisanthus Willd. ex Roem. & Schult. 1819
  • Margaris DC. 1830 not Griesb. 1866
  • Deseliaea DC. 1830

Symphoricarpos, commonly known as the snowberry, waxberry, or ghostberry, is a small genus of about 15 species of deciduous shrubs in the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae. With the exception of the Chinese coralberry, S. sinensis, which is indigenous to western China, all species are native to North and Central America. The name of the genus is derived from the Ancient Greek words συμφορεῖν (sumphoreîn), meaning "to bear together", and καρπός (karpós), meaning "fruit". It refers to the closely packed clusters of berries the species produces.[4]


Symphoricarpos leaves are 1.5–5 cm (0.59–1.97 in) long, rounded, entire or with one or two lobes at the base. The flowers are small, greenish-white to pink, in small clusters of 5–15 together in most species, solitary or in pairs in some (e.g. S. microphyllus). The fruit is conspicuous, 1–2 cm (0.5–1 in) in diameter, soft, varying from white (e.g. S. albus) to pink (S. microphyllus) to red (S. orbiculatus) and in one species (S. sinensis), blackish purple. When the white berries are broken open, the interior looks like fine, sparkling granular snow. The flesh is spongy and contains two 2–5 mm long, whitish stone seeds. The seeds, which contain endosperm and a small embryo, are egg-shaped and more or less flattened. They have a very tough, hard, impermeable covering, and so are very hard to germinate and may lie dormant for up to ten years.

The white berries create a cracking sound when they are stepped into firm ground.


Species accepted as of August 2015[5]


Common snowberry (S. albus) is an important winter food source for quail, pheasant, and grouse, but is considered poisonous to humans. The berries contain the isoquinoline alkaloid chelidonine, as well as other alkaloids. Ingesting the berries causes mild symptoms of vomiting, dizziness, and slight sedation in children.

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Common snowberry is a popular ornamental shrub in gardens, grown for its decorative white fruit and wildlife gardening. It is also a useful landscaping plant due to its extreme versatility—tolerating sun, shade, heat, cold, drought, and inundation.


  1. ^ "Genus: Symphoricarpos Duhamel". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 1998-09-18. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  2. ^ "Symphoricarpos". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  3. ^ Jones, George Neville (1940). "A monograph of the genus Symphoricarpos." Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 21(2):201-252.
  4. ^ Everett, Thomas H. (1982). The New York Botanical Garden Illustrated Encyclopedia of Horticulture. Taylor & Francis. p. 3271. ISBN 978-0-8240-7240-7.
  5. ^ The Plant List, search for Symphoricarpos

External links[edit]