Standard English Name(s): soapberry
Local English Name(s) (if different from above):
Scientific Name(s): Shepherdia canadensis (L.) Nutt.
Upriver Halkomelem Name(s): sxhwosum
Downriver Halkomelem Name(s): sxhwesum
Island Halkomelem Name(s):
sxhwesum (fruit), xhwesumulhp (bush)

Description, Habitat, Ecology, & Distribution:
Soapberry is a 1-2 m (3-6.5 ft) tall shrub with deciduous, oval leaves. The flowers are yellowish-brown and inconspicu0us, and produce bright red berries. This species occurs in dry to moist open wood and thickets from low to middle elevations. On the coast, it is commonest along the extreme southeastern part of Vancouver lsland. Soapberries contain natural detergent-like substances (saponins), which make them soapy and bitter. Because of this, they can be whipped into a frothy mass, something like whipped cream.

Upriver Halkomelem Cultural Role(s):
  The sweetened froth made from whipped soapberries in a special soapberry basket is eaten on special paddlelike spoons.
Downriver Halkomelem Cultural Role(s):
Island Halkomelem Cultural Role(s):

      Soapberries may be gathered on southern Vancouver Island or obtained through trade then whipped with sugar and eaten.

CAUTION: This species produces bitter, sudsing chemicals called saponins. There are no known reports of poisoning from the consumption of the fruits of this plant, but it should be used only in moderation.