Spring 2020

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Silver Buffaloberry

Silver BuffaloberryHere's a shrub that's loaded with character. At first sight it's sometimes mistaken for Russian Olive because of its silver leaves and apparent thorns, but on closer examination the resemblance fades. Its leaves are scaly on both sides, and its fruit is small, round and red - or occasionally yellow, whereas Russian Olive has larger, silvery-yellow berries. In contrast to Russian Olive, Buffaloberry thorns are actually not thorns at all but rather sharp-pointed side branches.

Its flowers are inconspicuous and unisexual, meaning they are either male or female, and only the female flowers produce fruit. If you can get to it before the birds, you may want to practice the Indian custom of putting a blanket on the ground and beating the shrub so the fruit will fall and can be easily collected.

Buffaloberry fruit

Buffaloberries can be eaten fresh, dried, or made into a colorful jelly. Indians are said to have used them in a sauce for buffalo meat, which may explain their name. But don't rush to pick them just because they're red. Instead it's advisable to wait until after a frost when their bitterness is dispelled and they become edible.

Silver Buffaloberry is usually found in moist sites along streams where it often forms a dense thicket, but it can also grow in dry, rocky soils - an excellent Xeriscape plant.

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