The snowberry (Symphoricarpos), also referred to as waxberry or ghostberry, belongs to a relatively small genus of some 15 species. These species are deciduous shrubs and belong to the honeysuckle family of Caprifoliaceae.
All species are originally from North and Central America, except for the Chinese coralberry, S. sinensis, which is native to western China.
The plant’s flowers grow in small clusters or in pairs (e.g. S. microphyllus). Some species grow singular small flowers. The flower are small and their colour varies from greenish-white to pink. The fruit the plant bears is also small, but conspicuous. The berries are about 1-2 cm (or 0.5-1 inch) in diameter, with a silky feel and their colour varies from white (among others S. albus) to pink (S. microphyllus) to red (S. orbiculatus) to even a very dark purple (S. sinensis). When the berries are opened, the fruit inside resembles fine and sparkling granules, a bit like snow.
The common snowberry (S. albus) is eaten by animals like quail, pheasant and grouse during the winter. The berries are however poisonous to humans, because they contain substances like the isoquinoline alkaloid chelidonine.