Snowberry Bush

Scientific Name: Symphoricarpos albus

Common Name: Snowberry

Description: Hardy, deciduous, western North American shrub; tiny pink blossoms in late spring followed by large white berries, which persist through the winter and are especially striking after the leaves drop

Size: Grows 4 to 6 feet high and wide

Cultural Information: Prefers full sun to part shade; fertile, well-drained soil

USDA Zones: 3 through 7

Historical Notes: Thomas Jefferson sent seed of the snowberry, brought back from the Lewis and Clark Expedition, to his nurseryman friend Bernard McMahon. In 1812, McMahon sent Jefferson young plants, saying, "This is a beautiful shrub brought by C[aptain] Lewis from the River Columbia, the flower is small but neat, the berries hang in large clusters [and] are of a snow white colour and continue on the shrubs, retaining their beauty, all the winter; especially if kept in a Green House. The shrub is perfectly hardy; I have given it the trivial english name of Snowberry-bush."[1]

Jefferson promised the snowberry shrub to his Parisian friend, Madame de Tessé,[2] and plants were also sent to General John Hartwell Cocke, of Bremo Plantation on the James River, in March 1817.[3] Monticello was one of the first American gardens where this shrub was grown.[4] After it was exported in 1817, snowberry became a popular garden novelty in England.

AnchorPrimary Source References

1812 October 11. (Jefferson to Bernard McMahon). "... one only of the cuttings of the Snowberry failed."[5]

1817 March 6. (Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes). "Mrs Eppes will recieve herewith a box containing ... a Snowberry bush ...."[6]

-Peggy Cornett, n.d.Anchor

Further Sources


  1. ^ McMahon to Jefferson, February 28, 1812, in PTJ:RS, 4:524. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  2. ^ Jefferson to Madame de Tessé, December 8, 1813, in PTJ:RS, 7:35. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  3. ^ Jefferson to Cocke, March 27, 1817, in PTJ:RS, 11:220. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  4. ^ See Garden Book, 1766-1824, page 49, by Thomas Jefferson [electronic edition], Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2003). See also Betts, Garden Book, 475.
  5. ^ PTJ:RS, 5:382. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  6. ^ PTJ:RS, 11:174. Transcription available at Founders Online.

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