Mountain snowberry (Symphoricarpos rotundifolius) is a scraggly shrub that grows between 1 and 4 feet in height. A member of the Honeysuckle Family, mountain snowberry varies throughout its range resulting in many varieties and subspecies being identified. Usually though all these specimens are grouped under the earliest name, S. rotundifolius.
A perennial, native to Western United States and Northwestern Mexico, mountain snowberry is currently found in Colorado, Utah, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho and Texas. Mountain snowberry prefers dry, rocky slopes between 4,000 and 10,000 feet in elevation but grows in many habitats.
Mountain snowberry can be spreading, erect or trailing. New growth had reddish-brown bark while older branches have shredding greyish or brown bark.
The opposite, deciduous leaves of mountain snowberry have a short petiole (stalk) and are dull green above and paler below with downy hairs. The margins are entire or rarely irregularly toothed. Another common name for S. rotundifolius is roundleaf snowberry. This is misleading because the leaves are oval to elliptical.
The sessile (no stem) mountain snowberry flowers occur in pairs or small clusters in the axils of upper leaves or at the end of branchlets. The white to pink corolla is tubular. The lobes of the flower are about 25% of the corolla tube.
The white, berry-like fruit encloses two seeds. Although Native Americans thought mountain snowberry was poisonous, the fruits are edible, but unpalatable.
Livestock and deer on the western ranges use mountain snowberry as a browse.
Derived from the Greek words “karpos” (fruit) and “symphoria” (gather together), the genus name means “clustered fruit”. The species designation, “rotundifolius” means “with round leaves” in Latin.
These mountain snowberry specimens were growing in Clark Creek Valley along Lassen County Highway 510 in California.