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Snowberry - Chiococca alba
Snowberry - Chiococca alba
Snowberry - Chiococca alba
Snowberry - Chiococca alba
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Snowberry - Chiococca alba

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Snowberry - Chiococca alba, a robust attractive evergreen long-lived perennial that is part vine/part shrub in the coffee family (Rubiaceae) and native to Florida that commonly blooms spring through fall and often all year long.  The genus name Chiococca comes from the Greek chion  meaning snow, and kokkos meaning kernel or berry. The species epithet alba is Latin for “white” and refers to the color of its berries. It is an unusual name for a plant that only grows in very warm places but the berries are as white as the driven snow. Its tubular flowers start a pale white and as the flower ages they turn yellow.  It provides food and cover for various birds, small mammals, and nectar for pollinators. It is also a larval host for the Miami blue butterfly (Cyclargus thomasi) and Snowberry clearwing moth (Hemaris diffinis).  This plant prefers partial shade conditions to some full sun exposure and requires some support as it grows and with support can reach 10’ in height and often 10’ width.  It makes a nice background plant in the landscape with its showy yellow flowers and bright white fruit. It can tolerate some salty wind and salty spray but not inundation of salt water.  It will handle periods of time where ground is moist during rainy season, but does well in long dry conditions.  Its native habitats in Florida are coastal hammocks, pine rocklands, coastal flats and disturbed forest edges.  The best part of this plant is its good looks as a buffer plant but it can be aggressive in gardens, so it may require a little management once it is established after a couple years.

The Miami blue butterfly inhabits tropical hardwood hammocks, beachside scrub and tropical pine rocklands. Once widespread in much of Florida, the Miami blue has been extirpated on the Florida mainland. It is now one of Florida's most endangered insects with a single remaining population of less than 100 individuals in the Florida Keys. It should be protected. This loss is due to ever-expanding urbanization and the associated loss of coastal habitat. Eggs are laid singly on flower buds of host plant. Caterpillars feed on flowers and may live inside the pods, eating seeds.

The Snowberry Clearwing is a large moth in the Sphinx family. It is a strong flier and can resemble birds and bees as it hovers to nectar with its long proboscis. This moth is found in many states in the southeast including Florida. This plant is also host to the Pluto sphinx moth.

For humans it is been used in traditional herbal medicine to treat rheumatism and snakebites. It has also been used to treat asthma, coughs, diarrhea and as a laxative. Other uses as a diuretic to induce vomiting.

There is another unrelated plant that is known as snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus. This one is not native to Florida. So be sure to check scientific name to ensure you are getting the right plant.

AC