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."
Jefferson promised the snowberry shrub to his Parisian friend, Madame de Tessé, and plants were also sent to General John Hartwell Cocke, of Bremo Plantation on the James River, in March 1817. Monticello was one of the first American gardens where this shrub was grown. After it was exported in 1817, snowberry became a popular garden novelty in England.
Primary Source References
1812 October 11. (Jefferson to Bernard McMahon). "... one only of the cuttings of the Snowberry failed."
-Peggy Cornett, n.d.
Agriculture & Gardening
931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville, VA 22902