Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
General: Elaeagnaceae (Oleaster Family). Silver buffaloberry is a deciduous thorny, thicket-forming native shrub to small tree that is drought-hardy and winter-hardy. It has opposite branching. As the shrub matures, the thin bark becomes grayish-brown, and starts to peel. Its height varies from 3 to 20 feet. The leaves are silvery gray in color on both top and bottom. They are about 1 to 2 inches long and about 3/8 inches wide. The male and female flowers are found on separate plants. In early spring (late April), the yellow-colored male flowers are quite noticeable, while the female flowers remain inconspicuous. This species is insect pollinated, most commonly by honey bees and bumble bees.
The fruit is drupe-like, ovoid, about ¼ inch long and one-seeded. The seed is a small, shiny-brown achene that is very hard. The berries start to form in late may and ripen by late summer. Most of the fruit are reddish-orange in color. Rarely, yellow fruit are seen. The ripe berries remain on the shrubs and, if not eaten, dry berries may still be present the following spring.
Distribution: It is found primarily in the prairies and southern parklands of the Prairie Provinces of Canada and south to California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma with small populations in western Minnesota and northwestern Iowa. It is most commonly found in the northern Great Plains. Precipitation in this region varies from 13 to 23 inches. It is hardy to Zone 3. In its area of distribution, it appears to be indifferent to variations in climate. No evidence of ecotypic variation has been noted.
Habitat: It is found growing along streams, in coulees and on exposed, moist hillsides where it forms thickets in which several woody species are represented. Silver buffaloberry is capable of fixing nitrogen in root nodules that contain bacteria. This nitrogen may be important to other species and in the establishment and maintenance of shrub communities.