SILVER TOTEM™ Buffaloberry: A Sentinal to Watch Over the Low-water Garden

SILVER TOTEM™ buffaloberry from Plant Select. Tall evergreen shrub for screening

SILVER TOTEM™ Buffaloberry

Looking for an evergreen columnar shrub to create a hedge, screen or backdrop? SILVER TOTEM™ Columnar Buffaloberry is a seedling selection of the North American indigenous plant, Shepherdia argentea, which can be found in its native range of central and western Canada, Montana and the Dakotas, and extending in pockets south into Kansas, and west through Arizona into California.

The species’ wide-ranging habitat includes riparian areas of moderate moisture along streams, lakes and meadows (where it can form dense thickets), as well as dry Western sites of prairieland, woodlands, and exposed hillsides. 

The selection, SILVER TOTEM™, was discovered growing within a field of buffaloberry in 2008 at Little Valley Wholesale Nursery in Brighton, Colorado.

It is an upright, columnar form averaging 8-12’ in height, with strongly ascending branches. The new twigs are covered with silvery scales for the first year, and are often tipped with a short thorn. The leaves are oblong to narrowly elliptical, with silvery scales on both upper and lower surfaces.

Like the species, Shepherdia argentea ‘Totem’ has rhizomatous roots which can result in suckering, but in drier landscapes, suckering is reduced.  The species is dioecious, having male and female flowers on separate plants. The flowers of SILVER TOTEM™ are female, tiny, and yellow, and bloom on the stems before the leaves emerge in spring. If pollinated, they will develop into tart, fleshy, berry-like red fruits that can be made into pies, jellies, and jams, or left on the shrub to be eaten by many bird species.

SILVER TOTEM™ Columnar Buffaloberry fills several niches in today’s landscapes.

  • It provides a slender profile in the landscape, perfect for screening.
  • It is ideal for xeric Western gardens.
  • It provides food for the table or for wildlife.
  • It is a North American native.

SILVER TOTEM™ Columnar Buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea ‘Totem’)

Height: 8-10’
Width: 3’
Blooms: April-May
Sun: Full Sun
Soil Moisture: Moderate to Dry, Xeric
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3-9
Culture: Loam, sandy, rocky, gravelly, or alkaline soils

Thanks to Keith Williamson of Little Valley Wholesale Nursery for this article! See the plant profile here.

6 responses to “SILVER TOTEM™ Buffaloberry: A Sentinal to Watch Over the Low-water Garden”

  1. JP says:

    Any suggestions on where to find local nurseries that sell this new addition in the Fort Collins area? I’ve asked a few, and they aren’t aware of them yet.

    • Ross Shrigley-Plant Select says:

      Fort Collins Nursery should be able to bring them in. They are aware of them. I know because they sold some this spring.

  2. Linda O Meyer says:

    How does this tree tolerate clay soil?

  3. CS says:

    Part shade?

  4. Sri Spielman says:

    Had a lot of die back. New shots at the base of plant. Will it still maintain its slender silhouette?

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