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Shepherdia argentea - (Pursh.)Nutt.

Common Name Buffalo Berry, Silver Buffaloberry,
Family Elaeagnaceae
USDA hardiness 3-9
Known Hazards The fruit contains low concentrations of saponins[101]. Although toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm. They are also broken down by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K].
Habitats Banks of streams[43] and open wooded areas, often on limestone[101] and on sandy soils[229].
Range Central N. America - Manitoba to New Mexico.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Shepherdia argentea Buffalo Berry, Silver Buffaloberry,

USDA photo
Shepherdia argentea Buffalo Berry, Silver Buffaloberry,


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Bloom Color: Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Rounded.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Shepherdia argentea is a deciduous Shrub growing to 4 m (13ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 2 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in March, and the seeds ripen from July to December. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). . The plant is not self-fertile.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Hippophae argentea. Elaeagnus utilis. Lepargyrea argentea


Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Hedge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked[1, 2, 11, 61, 161, 257]. It can also be dried and used like currants[3, 46]. A tart but pleasant flavour even before a frost[85, 183], it becomes sweeter after frosts[3, 62, 95]. The fruit is also used for making preserves, pies etc[183]. The fruit should be used in moderation due to the saponin content[101]. The fruit is produced singly or in clusters, it is up to 9mm long and contains a single seed[229].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Febrifuge  Laxative  Stomachic

The berries are febrifuge, laxative and stomachic[257]. They have been eaten in the treatment of stomach complaints, constipation and fevers[257].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Hedge  Hedge  Soil stabilization

The plants can be grown as a hedge[160] and windbreak[229]. A red dye is obtained from the fruit[57, 106, 257]. Because it has a wide-ranging root system, forms thickets and is wind tolerant, it is sometimes planted for erosion control[229].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Hedge  Hedge  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Erosion control, Massing. Succeeds in an ordinary well-drained moisture retentive soil[1, 3, 11]. Tolerates poor dry soils[200] and maritime exposure[182]. Established plants are drought resistant[182]. A very cold-tolerant plant[229]. Plants rarely produce fruit in Britain[11]. Occasionally cultivated for its edible fruit, there are some named varieties[183]. 'Xanthocarpa' has yellow fruits[200]. The fruit is difficult to harvest because the shrub is very thorny[3]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if fruit and seed are required. Special Features:Attractive foliage, North American native, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 6 through 1. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.)

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Seed - it must not be allowed to dry out[113]. It is best harvested in the autumn and sown immediately in a cold frame. Stored seed requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification[113]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle. If sufficient growth is made it will be possible to plant them out in the summer, otherwise grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in the following spring or early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame sometimes work[113].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Rabbit berry, Thorny buffalo berry, Nebraska currant,

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Australia, Canada, North America, USA

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Shepherdia canadensisBuffalo Berry, Russet buffaloberry, Canada BuffaloberryShrub2.5 2-6 MLMHSNDM323

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

Carla Burton   Thu Feb 14 2008

Does anyone know if Shepherdia argentea berries can be whipped into a stiff form the way the berries from Shepherdia canadensis can be whipped? They both contain saponins and I assumed it was the saponin content that was responsible for the ability for it to be whipped. I am working on a paper on Shepcan and am trying to compare the two species and their traditional use. As far as I can make out, Sheparg was never whipped but I'm not sure if it is because it can't be whipped. Does anybody know. Is there any references in the literature to these berries being whipped? Have you tried it yourself? Thanks for any help anyone can give me.

michael finley   Thu Aug 6 2009

Carla, the saponin content in S. argentea seems lower than in S. canadensis, so the latter doesn't whip as well(at least it didn't when I tried to do it). Argentea is a much more abundant bearer of fruit, which also has a nicer flavour, than canadensis (at least around my cabin at Redberry Lake, Saskatchewan. We have S. canadensis in the low, moist woods, and S. argentea on shrubby grassland and sandy lakeshore). The sweetness increases a bit if harvested after a good frost --- but really, the best thing to do with S. argentea is to make jelly. It has a spicy flavour, particularly good used with meat like cranberry sauce.

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