An erect thicket-forming shrub to 1 m tall. Shoots usually downy, red-brown, more than 1 mm wide; older bark grey and shredding. Leaves oval, 25–110 × 15–70 mm; base cuneate to rounded, tip apiculate; thick and leathery, dull dark green above and sometimes thinly hairy; pale green and usually thinly hairy beneath; petiole relatively long (4–10 mm), pubescent. Flowers sessile, in short dense axillary clusters and terminal spikes which are 10–25 mm long; bracts and bractlets broadly ovate, ciliate; calyx usually regularly 5-toothed, the teeth ovate and ciliate; corolla shortly bell-shaped, deeply lobed, pale pink, 6–9 mm long, densely hairy within; lobes slightly longer than the tube, 3–4 mm long, obtuse; stamens slightly exserted; anthers 2 mm, half as long as the filaments; style 4–8 mm (twice as long as the corolla tube and longer than the stamens). Fruit pale greenish-white, 6–8 mm wide, soon discolouring blackish brown; nutlets 2, smooth, oval, 3.5 × 2–2.5 mm. (Jones 1940).
Distribution Canada Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan. United States Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
Habitat Dry prairie scrub, rocky wooded slopes, by rivers, and alongside S. albus in woodlands in the eastern United States.
USDA Hardiness Zone 3
RHS Hardiness Rating H7
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
This is the characteristic snowberry of the central prairie states and of central southern Canada; it is also native to the woodlands of the north-eastern United States where it makes a taller plant than S. albus subsp. albus, with longer, thicker leaves (Jones 1940). It is very hardy, but the tendency of the white fruit to discolour to brown or black has militated against the species’ garden use; it was in cultivation in Europe by 1880 (Edwards & Marshall 2019) but nowadays only seems to be available from a few American wildflower seed specialists.