Standard English Name(s):
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)
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
The sweetened froth made from whipped
soapberries in a special soapberry basket is eaten on special paddlelike
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
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.