Soopolallie (Buffaloberry)

Shepherdia canadensis

Photo: Nancy Turner

Soopolallie

Appearance

The soopolallie (buffalo berry) is a one to two 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.

Life Cycle

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.

Animal Uses

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 First Nations Uses

The berries were used to make “ice cream” by whipping the berries and water into a froth. They were also eaten fresh or dried for use in syrup, as they are high in iron. They were mixed with buffalo meat to make pemmican, a traditional meat based food. Other parts of the plant and berries were also used for medicinal purposes.

Modern Uses

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.

Status

COSEWIC: Not at Risk
CDC: Yellow

More Information

www.mountainnature.com

Photo: Nancy Turner