From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

Snowberry Bush
Snowberry Bush

Common Name: Snowberry[1]

Scientific Name: Symphoricarpos albus

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 Captain 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 shrub, retaining their beauty all the winter, especially if kept in a greenhouse…I have given it the trivial English name of Snowberry-bush."[2] Jefferson promised the shrub to his Parisian friend, Madame de Tessé, and plants were 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[4] was grown and it became a popular garden novelty in England after it was first exported in 1817.

Primary Source References[5]

1812 October 11. (Jefferson to Bernard McMahon). " only of the cuttings of the Snowberry failed."[6]

1817 March 6. (Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes). "Mrs. Eppes will receive herewith a box containing...a Snowberry bush..."[7]


  1. This section is based on Peggy Cornett, CHP Information Sheet.
  2. 28 February 1812. Betts, Garden Book, 481.
  3. Ibid, 637.
  4. See Ibid, 475. Manuscript and transcription at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
  5. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  6. Betts, Garden Book, 490.
  7. Ibid, 568.

Further Sources