As a combined ornamental and fruit-bearing shrub, the buffalo-berry (Shepherdia argentea) deserves more attention than it has yet received. It is native to the bluffs of the upper Missouri and extends north to the Black Hills. It also extends westward to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and southward. As found in different localities, often not widely separated, it varies in size of bush, size of its silvery leaves, and in the size and color of its fruit. In the Black Hills the writer has met with bushes bearing red and yellow berries within ten feet of each other. This natural tendency to variation leads to the belief that by cultivation, seedling production, and selection, varieties could soon be developed bearing fruit as large as the red Dutch currant and ultimately as large as the Cherry or Fay. The plant is dioecious (34. Monoecious and Dioecious Flowers), but seems peculiarly a favorite of the bees and insects, as I
have known isolated pistillate bushes to load with fruit when no pistillate plant was found in the near vicinity. As yet the plant is mainly used in the East and West for ornamental groups on the lawn or for ornamental hedges. The leaves are silvery on both sides, and when loaded with bright-scarlet fruit, the contrast with the silvery foliage and young branches is very pleasing and attractive. But the most pleasing effect of such plantings is realized when the staminate and pistillate plants are intermingled in groups or hedges. In the dormant period, the sexes can readily be separated, as the fruit-buds differ materially. The pistillate plants have smaller, more slender buds, which are arranged in less compact clusters. The staminate plants show relatively large clusters of buds which are decidedly larger in size and more rounded than the pistillate buds. Five minutes given to a study of the buds will enable the novice to separate the seedlings without making a mistake. When grown from seed in nursery row the plants should stand one foot apart and not be used until three years old, when buds will appear and the sex of each plant can be determined.
The pruning should be confined to pinching or clipping the point of growth extending beyond the line of symmetry, and to taking out dead wood as it may appear. In the prairie States, an isolated plant with exposed stem always sunburns on the south side. Hence the need of growing in groups or hedges for mutual shelter, and where isolated plants are grown they must be kept in bush form by heading back and allowing suckers to start from the crown. As to the uses of the fruit it is fully equal, if not superior, to the red currant for jelly and marmalade, but it is not equal to the best currants for dessert use, canning, or stewing. But it will thrive and bear loads of fruit in dry climates where the currant fails, and, as stated, it is ornamental as well as useful for its fruit.