The soopolallie (buffalo berry) is a 1-2 metre tall spreading shrub. It has bright red oval-shaped berries and dark green leaves. There are yellow flowers on the shrub but they are hard to see as they come out from under the new leaves.
Range & Habitat
Soopolallie is found in open moist or dry areas in the low and subalpine regions where the soil allows water to drain through easily. They are commonly found in the Rocky Mountains and do better on the eastern slopes of the mountains and near lodgepole pine forests.
The berries of this shrub appear from late July to mid August. Only the female plants have the fruit, and male and female flowers occur on different shrubs.
The soopolallie is a main part of a bear’s diet. During the months of August and September a grizzly bear can eat over 200,000 of these berries a day. Birds and other mammals also like this berry for food.
Traditional Uses By Indigenous Peoples
The berries are used to make “ice cream” by whipping the berries and water into a froth. They are also eaten fresh or dried for use in syrup, as they are high in iron. They can be mixed with buffalo meat to make pemmican, a traditional meat based food. Other parts of the plant and berries sre also used for medicinal purposes.
Picking the berries of this shrub is restricted in some areas; however, it is still used to make jellies and ‘ice cream’ when it can be picked.
COSEWIC: Not at Risk
Photo: Nancy Turner