SEARCH AND WILDFLOWER HOME PAGE      YELLOW FLOWERS     CONTACT US



Shepherdia argentea
Shepherdia argentea (Silver Buffaloberry)
Elaeagnaceae (Oleaster Family)

Foothills, montane. Streamsides. Spring.
Near Yellowjacket Canyon, June 12, 2004.

Buffaloberry likes moist areas near rivers at lower elevations and it often forms massive thickets, very visible because of the silvery-gray leaves. The habitat, leaves, and thorny stems commonly cause Buffaloberry, a native shrub, to be mistaken for a young Russian Olive, an invasive tree.

Buffaloberry grows to 15 feet; Russian Olive to 50. Buffaloberry has bright red or gold fruit (the ripening green fruit is pictured at left); Russian Olives have buff, olive-like fruit. Buffaloberry has opposite branching twigs and leaves; Russian Olive, alternate. Both make thickets; Buffaloberry’s is denser because of numerous root shoots. Both plants produce innumerable berries.  (See the ripening red fruit below.)

The genus name honors British botanist, John Shepherd, the first Curator of the Liverpool Botanic Garden. The specific epithet is from the Latin, "argenta", "silvery" for the silvery-green leaves. The genus was named by Thomas Nuttall in 1818 and he also named this species (changing the original name, Hippophae argentea, given by Frederick Pursh). Shepherdia argentea was first collected for science by Meriwether Lewis in 1804 where the Niobrara River meets the Missouri River. (More biographical information about Shepherd.)

Shepherdia argentea

Shepherdia argentea Shepherdia argentea 

 

 

Shepherdia argentea (Silver Buffaloberry)
Elaeagnaceae (Oleaster Family)

Foothills, montane. Streamsides. Spring.
Near Yellowjacket Canyon, April 7, 2006 and March 22, 2009.

Tiny yellow flowers cluster by the thousands along stems making a very showy early spring. Bees and other pollen-gathering insects fill the air with buzzing. 

Shepherdia is dioecious, i.e., male and female flowers are on separate plants. Both male and female flowers are quite small; the pale yellow sepals of male flowers are 2-3 millimeters long, about twice the length of those on female flowers. The male flowers at left have six stamens, although several botanical texts indicate that male flowers have eight stamens. Nectary glands surround the inner base of the lobes of the sepals on both male and female flowers. These nectary glands are especially visible as glistening yellow bumps on the lower left male flower.

Shepherdia argentea Silver Buffaloberry)
Elaeagnaceae (Oleaster Family)

Foothills, montane. Streamsides. Spring.
Near Yellowjacket Canyon, July 8, 2006.

Buffaloberry's fruit is tart but sweetens some if given enough time to ripen bright red and to pass through several freezes. But Robins, Sparrows, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Grosbeaks, and many other birds usually eat the fruit when it is yellow or light orange in July and early August, weeks before humans would call it palatable. In the drought summer of 2006, the berries ripened early.

Shepherdia argentea (Silver Buffaloberry)
Elaeagnaceae (Oleaster Family)

Foothills, montane. Streamsides. Spring.
Near Yellowjacket Canyon, March 1, 2007.

Buffaloberry main stems can grow quite stout to ten inches in diameter; this stem is three inches in diameter.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Shepherdia argentea