Symphoricarpos oreophilus

Mountain snowberry, Utah snowberry


0406429 Mountain Snowberry blossoms & foliage detail [Symphoricarpos oreophilus]. Kittitas Co. Hayward Hill, WA.  Mark Turnermountain snowberry, Symphoricarpos oreophilus  (Dipsacales: Caprifoliaceae)

Photos: Mark Turner and Dave Powell



Wide range from British Columbia east to Montana, south to Texas and northern Mexico. Species in Washington, and most of western United States, is S. oreophilus var. utahensis (1,2).


Climate, elevation

Grows from the foothills to subalpine elevations (4)


Local occurrence

Common shrub in many plant communities east of the Cascades (2)


Habitat preferences

Grows in open areas of forests and dry meadows and on open slopes; fairly shade intolerant; prefers moist, well-drained soil but will grow in sandy to clay loam soil. (1,4)


Plant strategy type/successional stage

Establishes in the early seral stages, but usually lasts into the climax community. (6)


Associated species

Dominant shrub species in several plant communities, associated with the Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), subalpine fir (A. lasiocarpa), and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) series.


In Douglas fir plant communities, mountain snowberry is associated with Rocky mountain maple (Acer glabrum), heartleaf arnica (Arnica cordifolia), bristly black currant (Ribes lacustre), Saskatoon serviceberry, snowbrush ceanothus (Ceanothus velutinus), elk sedge (Carex geyeri), fireweed, and butterweed (Senecio spp.)


In quaking aspen plant communities, mountain snowberry is often an understory species associated with western yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Wood's rose (Rosa woodsii), black chokecherry (Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa), fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium), Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), blue elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea), lupine (Lupinus spp.) and sticky geranium (Geranium viscosissimum). (6)


May be collected as

Seed, layered branches, cuttings (1)


Collection restrictions or guidelines

No collection restrictions


Seed germination

Seeds exhibit double dormancy, requiring both acid scarification and then stratification for 4 to 6 months. When planted in spring, seed must undergo both treatments, while those planted in fall and winter only require acid scarification. (1,3)


Seed life

When properly stored, seeds can remain viable for up to 10 years. (6)


Recommended seed storage conditions

After harvest, seed should be macerated in water to remove flesh and dried thoroughly. Seeds should be stored dry. (1)


Propagation recommendations (plant seeds, vegetative parts, cuttings, etc.)

Direct seeding in fall and winter is recommended for well-drained sites.

Mountain snowberry is also easily propagated by stem cuttings, and by transplanting layered stems. Dig up rooted branches early in spring, before leaves have emerged. (5,6)


Soil or medium requirements

Prefers moist, well-drained soil and tolerates a wide pH range. (1,6)


Installation form

Direct seeding and transplanting container stock are both successful methods. (6)


Recommended planting density

1700-2700 plants/acre (2)


Care requirements after installed (water weekly, water once etc.)

After installed, young plants must be watered regularly, as they are particularly sensitive to drought for the first year (1)


Normal rate of growth or spread; lifespan

Grows to 0.6 to 1.2 m high; long lifespan, moderate growth rate; sometimes has a trailing form, with arching branches (1,2,6)


Sources cited:

1. Rose, R., C.E.C. Chachulski and D.L. Haase. Propagation of Pacific Northwest Native Plants. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press.


2. PLANTS Database. United States Department of Agriculture. Accessed 8 May 2006.


3. Rosner, L., Harrington, J.T., Dreesen, D.R. and L. Murray. 2001. Influence of Provenance on Ribes cereum and Symphoricarpos oreophilus

Seed Germination in New Mexico Seed Sources. 2001 Proceedings: American Society for Surface Mining and Reclamation. Volume 1, pp. 31-38.


4. Hitchcock, C.L. and A. Cronquist. 1973. Flora of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.


5. Native Plant Network. Native Plants Propagation Protocol Database. Accessed 8 May 2006.


6. Aleksoff, Keith C. 1999. USDA Forest Service. Fire Effects Information System. Accessed 8 May 2006.


Data compiled by

Alaine Sommargren, 8 May 2006