Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Shepherdia argentea (Pursh) Nutt.

Fully hardy, slow-growing, upright, bushy, deciduous shrub, often tree-like, with oblong leaves, to 5cm long, and small yellow-green flowers in spring, followed on female plants by ovoid, sour-tasting, bright red fruit.  To 4m.  [RHSE, Hortus, Hilliers’].  A useful hedging species.

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘The name buffalo berry is said to have been derived from the custom of eating the berries as a sauce with buffalo meat. It has also been known as rabbit berry and blood berry, while Crozier states that it has even been improperly called cornelian cherry. A writer in the Gardener’s Monthly speaks of it as the Nebraska currant.

The buffalo berry has enjoyed the distinction of remaining a new fruit for a very long time. In 1841 William Oakes, in discussing the advance of spring in eastern Massachusetts, mentions the buffalo berry, and incidentally states that it was then frequently cultivated. This was the same year that our earliest cultivated blackberry made its first appearance on the exhibition tables of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, and some years before either the black raspberry or the blackberry came into general cultivation. Yet we are still talking about the buffalo berry as a new fruit which ought to be introduced. Fuller, in his “Small Fruit Culturist,” published in 1867, gives a full account of it. The fruit possesses good qualities, and the plant is useful in ornamental planting, but it is not likely to reach a wide sphere of usefulness as a fruit-producing plant, unless it should be in localities where other garden fruits fail.’ [Card - Bush Fruits p.485/1909].  Figured in Hooker - Flora Boreali-Americana vol.2, tab.CLXXVIII/1840.

Introduced to Europe in 1820.  [JD].

History at Camden Park

Listed only in the 1850 and 1857 catalogues [T.938/1850].  Probably introduced to test its potential as a fruit-bearing shrub under Australian conditions.


Shepherdia argentea Hort. ex Schlecht. (1857) = Elaeagnus argentea Pursh

Published Mar 27, 2009 - 11:41 AM | Last updated Mar 29, 2010 - 02:45 PM

The drawing shows spiny shoots in flower and in leaf with berries.  Flora Boreali-Americana vol.2, tab.CLXXVIII, 1840.

Shepherdia argentea (Pursh) Nutt. | Flora Boreali-Americana vol.2, tab.CLXXVIII/1840 | BHL

Family Elaeagnaceae
Region of origin

North America

  • Lepargyraea argentea (Nutt.) Greene
  • Hippophaë argentea Pursh
Common Name

Rabbit berry, Buffalo berry

Name in the Camden Park Record

Shepherdia argentea

Confidence level high