Symphoricarpos orbiculatus Moench. - Coralberry,Indian-currant,Buck Bush,Low Wood-Bine,Shrubby St. Peters Wort,St. Peters Wort

Native , Occasional

By Katherine Gould & Steven D. Glenn

Not peer reviewed

Last Modified 02/22/2012

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Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Common Names

Coralberry,Indian-currant,Buck Bush,Low Wood-Bine,Shrubby St. Peters Wort,St. Peters Wort

Field Identification

Spreading shrub to 2 m high, with slender, arching branches, lightly hairy twigs, and shredding bark. Leaves opposite, simple, entire to partially lobed. Flowers small, pinkish, bell-shaped. Clusters of red berry-like fruits in the uppermost leaf axils.
Coralberry can be distinguished from the similar-looking western snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus var. laevigatus) by the pubescence of the current years' twigs. The twigs of S. orbiculatus are minutely villous, while the twigs of S. albus var. laevigatus are glabrous. Also, the fruits of S. orbiculatus are red to pink at maturity (starting out white), while the fruits of S. albus var. laevigatus are pure white at maturity.

Medicinal uses

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for reference and historical use. We do not recommend nor do we condone the use of this species for medicinal purposes without first consulting a physician.

(Moerman, 1998)

Used by Native Americans to treat weak or inflamed eyes.

Other uses

Used by Native Americans to make charcoal and for tattooing. (Moerman, 1998)

Used as an ornamental in landscaping situations; introduced into cultivation about 1727 and hardy to USDA zones (2?)-3. (Flint, 1983) (Rehder, 1940)

Poisonous properties

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for reference and historical use. If you believe you have been poisoned, please contact the Poison Control Office near you (look for the number in the front of the phone book).

(Burrows, 2001)

The fruit and foliage are suspected to be mildly toxic; ingestion can cause mild digestive tract upset and possibly mild sedation. Death is unlikely.


The generic name is of Greek origin, symphorein, to bear together, and karpos, fruit, referring to the clustered fruits. (Jones, 1940)


Symphoricarpos orbiculatus Moench., Meth. Plant. 503. 1794.
Lonicera symphoricarpos L., Sp. Pl. 175. 1753.
Symphoricarpos vulgaris Michx., Fl. Bor.-Am. 1: 106. 1803.
Symphoricarpos parviflorus Desf., Tabl. Ecole Bot. Paris 114. 1804.
Symphoricarpos conglomeratus Pers. Syn. 1: 214. 1805.
Symphoria glomerata Pursh, Fl. Am. Sept. 1: 162. 1814.
Symphoria rubra Raf., New Fl. N. Am. 3: 21. 1838.
Symphoricarpos imberbis Tausch, Flora 21: 734. 1838.
Symphoricarpos spicatus Engel., Pl. Lindh. 2: 215. 1847.
Symphoricarpos erythrocarpus Hort ex K. Koch, Dendr. 2,1: 48. 1872.
Symphoricarpos glomeratus K. Koch, Dendrol. 2. I. 48. 1872.
Symphoricarpos rotundifolius K.Koch, Dendrol. 2. I. 48. 1872. not A. Gray 1853.
Symphoricarpos vulgaris var. glomerata (Pursh) Lavallée, Arb. Segrez. 143. 1877.
Symphoricarpos vulgaris var. spicatus ( Engelm. & A.Gray ) A.Gray, Syn. Fl. 1,2: 13. 1886.
Symphoricarpos symphoricarpos (L.) MacMillan, Bull. Torr. Bot. Club 19: 15. 1892.
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus var. spicatus (Englm.) Schneid., Ill. Handb. Laubholzk. 2: 669. 1911.
Symphoricarpus Giraldii Hesse, Haupt-Preisl. 1925-1926: 122. 1925.
Symphoricarpos vulgaris elongata D. M. Andrews, Spring Cat. Rockmont Nurs. 23. 1932.
TYPE: unknown

*Symphoricarpos orbiculatus f. leucocarpa (D.M.Andrews) Rehd., J. Arnold Arbor. 21: 277. 1940.
TYPE: unknown


HABIT Perennial, deciduous shrub, monoclinous, 0.5-2 m tall.

STEMS Main stems ascending, light brown, reddish, orangish or brown, round. Bark fibrous, shredding on older branches, light brown or gray. Branches arching, slender. Twigs brown, light brown or orangish, terete, 1 mm in diam., smooth, villosulose to tomentulose throughout, glabrescent. Pith white, round, continuous.

BUDS Axillary only, scattered along stem, solitary, deltoid, 1.5-2 mm long, pointed. Bud scales 8, tan, imbricate, triangular, convex, chartaceous, acuminate, pilosulose throughout, margins ciliate, not glabrescent. Bud scale scars not encircling the stem. Leaf scars elliptical, 0.5 mm high, 1 mm wide, raised. Vascular bundle scars 1, elliptical, 0.25 mm tall.

LEAVESOpposite, simple, distichous, spaced somewhat evenly along and divergent from the stem. Stipules absent. Leaves petiolate, petiole furrowed, 0.2-0.3 cm long, villosulose to tomentulose throughout, not glabrescent. Leaf blades: abaxial surface light green, glaucescent, adaxial surface green, ovate to elliptic to widely elliptic (to nearly orbicular), bilaterally symmetric, 1.5-4 cm long, 1-2.5 cm wide, base acute to obtuse, margin ciliate, entire or undulate, larger leaves on old growth occasionally lobed, apex acute to obtuse, apiculate. Abaxial surface sparsely to moderately densely pubescent throughout, not glabrescent. Adaxial surface glabrous to sparsely pilosulose throughout, not glabrescent. Venation cladodromous, lateral veins 4-6 pairs, impressed on upper surfaces, prominent on lower. Leaves turning crimson in autumn.

INFLORESCENCESSerotinous, formed on the current season's growth as well as older shoots, bisexual, axillary spikes. Peduncle 0.1 cm long. Bracts petiolate or sessile, abaxial surface light brown to green, tinted reddish, ovate, curved, 1.5 mm long, 1 mm wide, base obtuse, margin entire, apex acute, both surfaces pubescent. Pedicel absent. Bracteoles 3, dissimilar, outer one larger, ovate, curved, 1.5-2 mm long, 1 mm wide; inner two smaller, triangular, curved, 1 mm long, 0.5 mm wide; abaxial surfaces green tinged with red, pubescent, margins entire or ciliate, apices acute. Cleistogamous flowers have been reported on shoots of the current year (Hull, 1947).

FLOWERS 5-merous, sepals and petals readily distinguishable from one another, 4.5-6 mm long, 3 mm wide, 8-20+ per inflorescence, fragrant, perianth of two whorls, epigynous. Calyx stereomorphic, campanulate, of fused sepals, persistent, abaxial and adaxial surfaces green tinged with red at the apices, 2 mm long, 1-1.5 mm wide, calyx tube 1-1.5 mm long, 1 mm wide, calyx limb 0.5-1 mm long, 1.5 mm wide. Sepal lobes 5, deltate, 0.5 mm long, 0.5 mm wide, margin ciliate, apex obtuse, abaxial surface glabrous. Corolla stereomorphic, of fused petals, deciduous, broadly campanulate turned obliquely upward, slightly ventricose on the lower side of tube, the inner surface of the ventricose portion glandular-papillate (nectariferous?), abaxial and adaxial surfaces pinkish (greenish-white in f. leucocarpa), 3-3.5 mm long, 2.5-3 mm wide, corolla tube 2.5 mm long, 2-2.5 mm wide, corolla limb 1.5 mm long, 1.5 mm wide, throat villose within. Petal lobes 5, very widely ovate, curved, 1-1.5 mm long, 1-1.5 mm wide, margin entire, apex obtuse, both surfaces glabrous. Gynoecium syncarpous. Carpels 4. Locules 4, two locules containing several abortive ovules, the other two each with a single pendulous ovule. Stigmas 1, capitate, 0.25 mm long, brown, with papillae. Style 1, not persistent, 1.5 mm long, pilose for upper half. Ovary inferior, 1.5-2 mm long, 1.5 mm wide, urceolate, slightly gibbous, green, glabrous, nectiferous disk present at the base of the style. Placentation axile. Androecium alternate, epipetalous, phanerantherous, haplostemous, introrse. Stamens 5, 2-2.5 mm long. Anthers linear, dehiscing along the long axis, opening entire length of anther, bithecal/tetrasporangiate, yellow, glabrous, 1 mm long. Filaments straight, yellow, glabrous, 1.5 mm long. For a detailed investigation of floral micro anatomy and morphology see Wilkinson, 1948.

FRUITS Dipyrenous berry-like drupes, white turning coral-red to pinkish at maturity (f. leucocarpa white at maturity), ellipsoid, 5-7 mm long, 4-5 mm wide, the beak 0.5-1 mm long, glabrous, often glaucous. For a review of fruit anatomy see Hidayati, et al., 2001.

SEEDS (Nutlets) 2, white, oval, flattened on one side against the septum, obtuse at each end, 3.5 mm long, 2 mm wide, glabrous, testa smooth.


Somewhat dry to mesic woods, roadsides and thickets; may be a calciphile (Ferguson, 1966).


Indigenous to the eastern two/thirds of the United States.

United States -- AL, AR, CT, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NE, NC, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WI, WV

New York Metropolitan Region -- Occasionally found throughout the metropolitan region.

Rarity Status

Heritage global rank -- G5

Connecticut -- Not listed

New Jersey -- Not listed

New York -- Not listed

Species Biology

July [week 4]-August [week 4]

(Ferguson, 1966) (Hull, 1947)
Pollination appears to be chiefly by Hymenoptera. There seems to be no mechanism to limit self-pollination, and cleistogamous flowers have been reported in cultivated specimens of coralberry.

September [week 3]-November [week 1]

Endozoochory -- Avian frugivores: Corvus brachyrhynchos (Crow), Agelaius phoeniceus (Red-winged Blackbird), Pinicola enucleator (Pine Grosbeak), Coccothraustes vespertinus (Evening Grosbeak), Turdus migratorius (Robin) (Ridley, 1930) (Martin, 1951)

Possibly Odocoileus virginianus (white-tailed deer) (Bryant, et al., 1996).

(Hidayati, et al., 2001)
In nature, most seeds germinate in the second spring following maturity. Seeds have nondeep complex morphophysiological dormancy. Cold stratification is effective only following warm stratification.