Shepherdia argentea

Silver Buffaloberry

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods



  • Shepherdia, from the Latin
  • argentea, from the Latin argenteus, "silvery"
  • Common Name, from
  • Other common names include: Buffaloberry, Thorny Buffaloberry


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
      • Subclass Rosidae, the Roses
        • Order Elaeagnaceae, the Olives
          • Family Rhamnaceae, the Buckthorns
            • Genus Shepherdia, the Buffaloberries
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 27778
  • Also known as Elaeagnus utilis, Lepargyrea argentea



  • A native, deciduous, thicket-forming small tree or large shrub with spreading to ascending thorny branches, 3'-20' tall.
  • Leaves 1"-2" long and 1/4"-1/2" wide.
  • Fruit drupelike, ovoid, about 1/4" long and one seeded.
  • Bark thin, exfoliating with shallow furrows and flat-topped ridges.


  • British Columbia to Manitoba and south to California, Arizona,

  • New Mexico, and Oklahoma with small populations in western Minnesota and northwestern Iowa. Most commonly found in the northern Great Plains.


  • Riparian areas such as wet meadows, floodplains, terraces, and along streams, rivers, lakes, springs, and ponds. Grows best on moist to semiwet soils with good drainage, but will grow in semishaded areas and on dry, exposed hillsides.
  • Grows best on loam and sandy loam soils, but occurs on clay, clay loam, and gravelly textures as well.
  • Tolerant of poorly drained soils and some flooding, but intolerant of prolonged flooding and permanently high water tables.
  • Generally shade intolerant, but grows in some shaded areas.
  • Where there is abundant moisture and deep fertile soil, may reach tree height; where conditions are severe, persists as a low or medium shrub.


  • Fair tolerance to fire in the dormant state and sprouts from rootstocks following fire. Probably killed by severe fires.


  • Trees: Boxelder (Acer negundo), American elm (Ulmus americana)
  • Shrubs: Speckled Alder (Alnus incana), Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea), American Plum (Prunus americana), Arkansas Rose (Rosa arkansana)
  • Herbs: Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense), Starry False Solomon's Seal (Smilacina stellata)
  • Ground Covers:
  • Mammals:
  • Birds: Fruits are eaten by sharp-tailed grouse, cedar waxwings, other passerine species, and small mammals.


  • Plains Indians and pioneers preserved the fruit and made a sauce from the berries that was eaten with bison meat.


  • Fruit used to make pies, jams, and jellies.


  • Reproduces by seed and vegetatively by rhizomes
  • Sexual: Seed production begins at 4-6 years of age, with good seed crops generally produced every 3-4 years. The small, hard seed shows poor and erratic germination. The embryo is dormant; cold stratification at 41 degrees Fahrenheit for 60-90 days will increase germination. Seed is disseminated primarily by animals.
  • Vegetative: Sprouts originate from a complex network of underground stems and rootstocks. It also sprouts from the root crown. Shrubs are interconnected for distances of up to 20'.


  • By seed, following cold stratification.
  • Difficult to transplant from its native habitat. For field transplanting, root cuttings give best results.


  • Planted as an ornamental.
  • Fixes nitrogen.
  • Susceptible to leaf spot, white heart rot, and insect parasites. White heart rot can lead to brittle wood and breakage of branches by wind and snow.
  • Rodents may harvest planted seeds and girdle young plants.


Boreal border
Last updated on 9 August 1999