Content Detail

Canadian buffaloberry is an uncommon Illinois native. A medium-sized shrub, it has attractive dark green leaves with a silvery underside. Tiny yellow flowers produce red berries. It is not tolerant of summer heat. May be difficult to find in nurseries. This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) Oleaster
  • Family (botanic) Eleagnaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago)
  • Soil preference Alkaline soil, Dry soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest early summer, midsummer, late summer
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous, Yellow
  • Shape or form Open, Round
  • Growth rate Slow

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 10. Thrives in the dry, rocky, or moist soils of open forests, thickets, streambanks, dry floodplains, meadows, and disturbed areas in the upper Midwest and North America. It is rare in the Chicago area. 

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:

When present, the fruit attracts birds. 

Bark color and texture:

Mature stems are brown and slightly scaly, while young twigs are medium brown and covered with brownish, flattened scales. The pith is reddish brown.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Leaves are opposite, oval to egg-shaped, short-stalked, and 1/2 to 2 inches long and 1 inch wide with entire margins. The upper surface of leaves is dark green. The underside has a fuzzy coating of whitish-silver hairs and flaky rust-colored scales that can be rubbed off.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Small, inconspicuous flowers appear in clusters before leaves open. Yellowish-green, funnel-shaped female and brownish-yellow disk-shaped male flowers are borne on separate plants.  

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Requires male and female plants for fruit set. Bright red, fleshy, oval-shaped fruits ripen in summer and are not showy but edible.


Plant care:

Canada buffaloberry does best in full sun to part shade. It tolerates the poorest of soils, does well in dry or alkaline situations, and is extremely cold- and drought-tolerant once established.

List of pests, diseases, tolerances and resistance:

Leaf spots, mildew and rust can all be problems. This plant may be difficult to find in nurseries. It is tolerant of dry conditions and salt.


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