©The World Botanical Associates Web Page
Prepared by Richard W. Spjut
Dec 2012, Jan 2014, July 2014

Symphoricarpos albus
Idaho: Clearwater NF,
Musselshell Meadow
24 July 2011


Symphoricarpos longiflorus
California. Inyo Co.,
On steep limestone slopes,
east side of Cerrro Gordo, 8,000 ft
24 June 2007


Symphoricarpos longiflorus
Nevada: Nye Co.,
Northeast of Tonopah
May 2002, SPJ-14737

Symphoricarpos mollis
California. Madera Co.: Sierra Natl. For.,
East of Bass Lake, CA.
July 2002, SPJ-14938

Symphoricarpos mollis
California. Kern Co.:S Sierra Nevada, Greenhorn Mts., Rancheria Rd, Mixed Conifer Forest, 6,000 ft, CNPS Chapter Field Trip, 25 May 2013

Symphoricarpos mollis
California. Kern Co.: S Sierra Nevada, East slope of Greenhorn Mts., Old St Hwy 155, Mixed Conifer Forest, 5,000 ft, CNPS Chapter Field Trip, 29 May 2014

Symphoricarpos oreophilus
Idaho. Sawtooth NF: Cassia Division, Trout Creek near       Monument Peak; 42º07.372, 114º12.272, 7000 ft.  Extensive high density (100%) stands of Veratrum californicum in region of Subalpine fir-aspen meadows bordered by sagebrush. 15 July 2009.




Symphoricarpos oreophilus
Nevada: Toiyabe Range, Birch Creek
July 2010


Symphoricarpos oreophilus
Nevada. Humboldt-Toiyabe NF, Jarbidge District: Lime Creek along FR Rd 082 just east of Wilson Creek and near jct with Chimney Creek, east of Elk Mt, within 10 m of the Idaho state line; 41º59.787, 115º00.840, 6971 ft.  Aspen forest with dense understory of Veratrum californicum. SPJ-16749, 25 July 2010.



Symphoricarpos rotundifolius var. parishii
. Kern Co.: Mt. Pinos, end of paved road.
24 Oct 2011. Photo shows long recurved branches.

Symphoricarpos rotundifolius
. Central Warner Mountains, just north of Hwy 299 at Cedar Pass along FR  43N07, north of Stough Reservoir; 41º34.393, 120º14.575, 6500-7000 ft in Modoc NF.  Mixed white fir, western juniper and sagebrush communities, usually with aspen, occasionally with cottonwood, and with Veratrum californicum dominant in meadows. 30 July


Symphoricarpos rotundifolius
. Central Warner Mountains, along creek below Pepperdine, bordering meadows with high density stands of Veratrum californicum, in association with willows and elderberry along margin of white fir-quaking aspen forest; 41º27.612, 120º15.249, 6400-6500 ft, Modoc NF.  19 July 2011. SPJ-16820A.


Trees and Shrubs of Kern County (Dec 2012, Jan 2014, July 2014)

Symphoricarpos. Deciduous shrubs, often spreading by underground shoots (rhizomes); leaves entire to toothed or partly lobed; flowers 1–many on terminal to axillary short axes, bell-shaped to funnelform, 4–5 lobed, enclosed by a similarly parted cupular calyx, fruit drupaceous: a baccate pyrenarium, snow white in color in our species, red or blue in others, with two pyrenes derived from a four-celled (locular) ovary in which only two develop, each with one pyrene. 16 species, 1 in southern China, 15 in North America including Mexico, 3 in Kern Co.; 6 reported with medicinal uses (Moerman), 7 species collected for the NCI antitumor screening since 2000, 32 extracts screened before 1980, none active. Several reports of poisoning from consumed fruit of S. albus.  Taxonomy of the genus not clear among the floristic treatments and other references mentioned below.

1. Flowers/fruits nodding or pendulous; corolla tube long funnelform, not with an
irregular bulge, 2–5
× longer than the corolla lobes, the lobes spreading, hairless
 to sparsely hairy inside (var. parishii); ovary ellipsoid to vase-like....................... 2

       2. Floral (corolla) tube 5× or more longer than corolla lobes; not in Kern
nearest occurrence reported from central San Bernardino
    Co ...................................................................
.... Symphoricarpos longiflorus
Floral tube 23
× longer than corolla lobes..... .................................................. 3

            3. Flowers 10–13 mm; corolla generally funnelform, gradually expanding
         from base to the corolla lobes that are mostly erect; Rocky Mts.
         and Intermountain Flora region, not reported to occur in
         Kern Co............................................................ Symphoricarpos oreophilus
3. Flowers 6–10 mm; corolla generally bell-shaped,
± abruptly expanded 
         from near base, subcylindric above to the slightly flaring corolla

            4.  Plants wider than tall with long horizontal or recurving branches to 1 m
          or more in length, sometimes rooting at branch tips as they bend
          back down to the ground......................................................... var. parishii
     4.  Plants with primary stems >50 cm high; branches often short,
          wide spreading and rigid.................................................. var. rotundifolius

1. Flowers/fruits spreading to erect; corolla tube short, often with a slight irregular
bulge on one side (appearing pregnant), 0.5–1.5
× the length of the lobes, 
the lobes mostly erect to incurved in Kern Co. species, hairy inside; ovary
of flower or flower bud spherical............................................................................ 5

       5. Terminal flowers/fruits in multiple clusters; corolla lobes flaring widely,
 style conspicuous, exserted 3–8 mm in length; mostly Rocky Mts.,
    especially Montana, not in Kern Co.
Symphoricarpos occidentalis
5. Terminal flowers/fruits mostly in a single cluster;
style inconspicuous,
    shorter than floral tube, 2–3 mm long
; mostly west and north
        of the desert regions................................................
...................................... 6

           6. Plants with one or more erect simple to occasionally branched stems
        from base; corolla 5–7 mm long; fruits
        6–15 mm.......................................... Symphoricarpos albus var. laevigatus
Plants with mostly horizontal densely branched stems; corolla 3–5 mm
        long; fruits 4–6 mm.................................................... Symphoricarpos mollis


Symphoricarpos albus (L.) S.F. Blake var. laevigatus (Fernald) S.F. Blake 1914. [Vaccinium album L. 1753; Symphoricarpos racemosum Micheaux 1803; Symphoricarpos racemosus var. laevigatus Fernald 1905; includes Symphoricarpos rivularis Suksdorf 1927]. Common Snowberry. Shrub with one to many erect stems, occasionally branched, usually 1–2 m high, spreading by underground stems (rhizomes); branches slender with gray to brown shredding bark; leaves broad elliptical to slightly wider below mid region, 1–1.5× longer than wide, 1–5 cm long on petioles 2–4 mm, with ~6 pairs of lateral veins along a midrib, dull, without hairs or sparsely hairy below, entire or irregularly and shallowly lobed near base, or in the mid region, or upper half; flowering May–Aug; flowers white with strong tinge of pink, in clusters of <18 in number at the ends of upper axillary and terminal branchlets, bell-shaped, 5–7 mm, densely hairy on the inside.  Woodlands and forest communities below 4,000 ft; Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada, mountains of southern California, to Alaska and Montana, the typical variety occurring further east to Quebec and south to Virginia. Type from garden plants.  Kern Co.: “Scarce” in Douglas oak woodland of the Greenhorn Range, 2,800 ft near Lumreau Creek Falls (Twisselmann), and Tiger Flat Campground (CCH).  Used medicinally by 20 or more native American tribes; root or root-bark, stem-bark, and fruit most often applied for treating sores, cuts, or skin rashes, eye problems, cold remedy, venereal diseases, diarrhea (Moerman).  Cultivated and naturalized in the U.S.

Plants west of the Continental Divide were distinguished from the eastern plants by the lack of hairs on twigs and by having larger fruits (10–15 mm) under the name S. rivularis (G. N. Jones 1940).  This treatment was adopted by Munz and Keck (1959) whereas Ferris in Abrams (1960)  considered it only of varietal status (S. albus var. laevigatus). The eastern plants, however, are considered “naturalized” (JM1). In California the species appears most common along the Coast and Peninsular Ranges, and in the northern Sierra Nevada (CalFlora).

Symphoricarpos mollis Nuttall 1841[Includes Symphoricarpos mollis var. acutus A. Gray 1884; Symphoricarpos hesperius G.N. Jones 1940].  Creeping snowberry. Shrub usually < 40 cm high with creeping branches 1–3 m long, rooting at nodes, the nodes and root crown often swollen; branches slender, reddish aging gray, with short curled hairs; leaves broad elliptical to slightly wider above or below mid region, 1–1.5× longer than wide, 1–3+ cm long on petioles 1–3 mm, with ~5 pairs of lateral veins along a midrib, the veins impressed above, raised below, dull, without hairs or with soft hairs on both surfaces, or only the lower surface hairy, entire or irregularly and shallowly lobed or toothed near base, or in the mid region, or upper half; flowering Apr–Jul; flowers white with strong tinge of pink, in pairs or clusters of <10 in number at the ends of upper axillary and terminal branchlets, shortly bell-shaped, 3–5 mm, hairy on the inside; ovary spherical.  Forest communities, Southern British Columbia to Idaho, south to Sierra Juárez in Baja California, and east to New Mexico. Type from Santa Barbara, CA. Kern Co.: “Scarce” in understory of “yellow pine forest” in the Greenhorn Range and on Breckenridge Mt (Twisselmann), 549–2,200 m (CCH).  Fruits used by one native American tribe in a wash for sore eyes (Moerman).   For close-up images of S. mollis flowers see Santa Monica National Recreational website

            Variety acutus (JM1), which also has been recognized as a species, has been distinguished by the more tapered leaves to base and to apex (G. N. Jones 1940; Abrams in Ferris 1960; Munz and Keck 1959); it was recognized to occur in the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada as far south as Tehachapi Mts. in Kern Co. Also, among plants occurring in the Coast Ranges from Humboldt Co. to southwestern British Columbia and east to northern Idaho and the Klamath Region was S. hesperinus G. N. Jones 1940—distinguished by the curly hairs on twigs as opposed to straight hairs in S. acutus.

Symphoricarpos occidentalis
Hooker 1835 differs by having larger more broad funnelform flowers, 6–9 mm, crowded on shortly branched floral stems (inflorescences), appearing as multiple clusters, and slightly recurved leaves. It occurs largely outside California, but one herbarium specimen  indicated it was collected from the central eastern Sierra Nevada just north of Devil's Postpile (SEINet).

Symphoricarpos rotundifolius A. Gray 1853 var. rotundifolius Mountain snowberry. Rhizomatous shrub to 1.2 m; bark reddish aging gray and peeling, with short curled hairs; leaves broadly elliptical to slightly wider above or below mid region, 1–1.5× longer than wide, 1–2+ cm long on petioles 1–3 mm, with ~4 pairs of lateral veins strongly ascending along a midrib, without hairs or with soft hairs on both surfaces, or only the lower surface hairy, entire or irregularly and shallowly lobed or toothed near base, or in the mid region, or upper half; flowering Jun–Jul; flowers white to strong tinged with pink, mostly in pairs along lateral leafy branchlets, funnelform, 7–9 mm, hairless on the inside; ovary ellipsoid.  Dry stony slopes, 4,000–10,000 ft in California (Munz & Keck 1959); south to northern Baja California; also Rocky Mts. from Colorado to New Mexico and Arizona (SEINet). Type from mountain slopes around copper mines, NM.  Kern Co.:  Badger Canyon in the Greenhorn Range, 1 mile below Badger Pass (CCH: C.N. Smith, 2 Jun 1940).

            Symphoricarpos rotundifolius was once more narrowly defined to occur only in New Mexico and Arizona by the densely hairy twigs, tubular funnelform corolla 8–10 mm long, anthers reaching only to the base of the corolla lobes, and soft hairy leaves, 1–3  cm by 0.6–1.9 cm (G. N. Jones 1940).  The related S. oreophilus A. Gray 1873 was distinguished by the absence of hairs on twigs; however, its distinction has become blurred in later floristic treatments from widening the circumscription of S. rotundifolius, an earlier name. 

            Symphoricarpos rotundifolius (var. rotundifolius), was not mentioned in the Intermountain Flora (Cronquist et al. 1984); also, S. oreophilus was not mentioned in JM1, JM2.  The geographical distribution given in the treatments by Dempster for the Jepson Manuals imply S. oreophilus is a synonym; however, Symphoricarpos oreophilus has been distinguished by the lack of hairs on branches and leaves, and by the tubular funnelform flowers 11–13 mm (G. N. Jones 1940; Kearny & Peebles, Arizona Flora 1951; Cronquist et al. 1984), but the development of hairs on twigs is also highly variable (Hitchcock et al. 1959).  In the Intermountain Flora, the species concept of S. oreophilus was broadened to include plants with hairy twigs under which three varieties were distinguished: var. parishii intricately branched to 1 m high, the upper branches horizontal to recurved, and with relatively small glaucous leaves; var. utahensis with ascending to erect braches, to 2 m high, further distinguished from var. oreophilus by its shorter tubular flowers, 6–10 mm, in contrast to the typical variety with longer flowers, 10–13 mm, occurring only in the Rocky Mountains (with outlying occurrences reported from near California on Pine Nut Mts. in Nevada and Hart Mt. Refuge in southern Oregon (SEINet)) in contrast to the other two  more widely distributed varieties in the western U.S. The name S. vaccinioides Rydberg 1900 was applied to hairy plants occurring as far south as Fresno County in the Sierra Nevada (Munz & Keck 1959); however, its type was reportedly equal to that of S. utahensis Rydberg 1899 (Cronquist et al. 1984), which essentially corresponds to S. rotundifolius as defined on this web page.  It appears that the shape of the corolla is the defining feature for the distinguishing S. oreophilus from S. rotundifolius west of the Rocky Mountains; the larger flowered plants occur mainly in the southern Rocky Mts. extending further south into northern Mexico.

Symphoricarpos rotundifolius var. parishii (Symphoricarpos parishii Rydberg 1899) Dempster 1992. [S. oreophilus A. Gray 1873 var. parishii (Rydberg) Cronquist 1984]. Parish's snowberry. Distinguished by trailing habit, sparsely hairy twigs . Kern Co.: “Occasional in the Jeffrey pine forest from the Kern Plateau and Mt. Owns to Mt. Pinos, and in the Douglas oak woodland on the high slopes of the southern Tehachapi Mountains”, “heavily browsed by cattle, sheep, and deer” (Twisselmann), 1,440–2,590 m (CCH). Type from Mill Creek, San Bernardino Mts. Used by Navajo and Kayenta for sore throat (Moerman).  The two varieties of S. rotundifolius are difficult to distinguish in Modoc Co. (JM2) and  outside California (Cronquist et al. 1984). The transfer of variety parishii by Dempster from S. oreophilus to S. rotundifolius suggests that names for the species may be synonymous, but they are distinguished outside California at consortia websites (SEINet, Pacific Northwest)