Shepherdia canadensis

Russet Buffaloberry

Shepherdia canadensis, Russet Buffaloberry

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



  • Shepherdia, from the Latin
  • canadensis, from the Latin, "of Canada"
  • Common Name, from
  • Other common names include: Buffaloberry, Canadian Buffaloberry, Russet Red Buffaloberry, Soapberry, Soopolallie


  • 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: 27779
  • Also known as Elaeagnus canadensis, Lepargyrea canadensis



  • A native, deciduous, nitrogen-fixing shrub, 3'-13' tall.
  • Roots have been variously reported as rhizomatous with relatively deep underground parts, fibrous and shallow, and a taproot with no rhizomes.
  • Dioecious, but occasionally monoecious.
  • Fruits drupelike, ovoid achenes enveloped in a fleshy perianth which turns yellowish red to bright red when ripe. [Photo]


  • Nova Scotia to western New York and northern Ohio, west to the Black Hills and Alaska, avoiding most of the Great Basin. From Alaska in the Rocky Mountains south to Arizona and New Mexico and east across northern Canada to Newfoundland.


  • Generally sandy, gravelly, or rocky soils; is able to thrive on nutrient poor soils due to its nitrogen fixing ability.
  • Grows on shores, riverbanks, dry slopes, moist north slopes, open rocky woods, and occasionally in calcareous marshes. It forms dense thickets along riparian zones and valley bottoms.
  • As succession moves from immature forest to old-growth forest there is a significant decrease in cover.


  • Survives fire by sprouting from surviving root crowns and establishment from seed transported from off-site.
  • As fire suppression culminates in closed canopy, old growth forests, fire generally increases density and vigor.


  • Trees:
  • Shrubs:
  • Herbs:
  • Ground Covers:
  • Mammals: Browsed by snowshoe hares; black bears and grouse feed on fruits in the fall.
  • Birds:


  • Native Americans either pressed the berries into cakes, which were smoked and eaten, or mixed them with water and beat them to make a frothy dessert.
  • The Salish and Kootenai boiled debarked branches and used the solution as an eyewash.
  • The Sioux boiled the roots, strained them through cloth and used the tea to cure diarrhea.



  • Sexual: Seed production begins at 4-6 years of age, with good seed crops annually. The small, hard seed shows poor, highly erratic, or delayed germintation. Cold stratification for a minimum of 60 days appears to be a requirement for embryo development. Sulfuric acid scarification for 20-30 minutes results in 72%-80% germination. Seed dispersal by animals and gravity.
  • Vegetative: Sprouts arise from both surviving root crowns and dormant buds on the taproot. However, Russet Buffaloberry is not very aggressive in terms of regeneration.


  • Vegetative propagation best accomplished using root cuttings. Stem cuttings have not been successful. Transplanting containerized material has been successful.
  • Seeds are very susceptible to greenhouse pathogens and have limited germination ability. Direct planting of scarified seeds may be successful.
  • Formation of short suckers allows a gradual increase in the size of the planting.


  • Occasionally grown for ornamental use.
  • Available from specialty suppliers by mail order.
  • Desirable for revegetating disturbed sites because it is native, provides food and cover for wildlife, and is a nitrogen-fixing plant. Its nitrogen-fixing ability allows it to grow in soils with low amounts of mineral nitrogen, which are common in disturbed areas. It also enhances the growth of associated species by producing "an island of fertility" around its perimeter.


Boreal border
Last updated on 9 August 1999