It seems I was fortunate that my early October 2008 trip to Jasper National Park occurred at peak autumn colours, as that certainly wasn’t the case this year. Most of the leaves had coloured and fallen by the time I arrived there on October 3. Still, with a bit of effort, there were photographs of plants to be had. This small landscape found at the end of the easily-accessible part of the Snaring River road intrigued me, as it isn’t often I’ve encountered such a palette of colours.
Elaeagnus commutata, or silver-berry / wolf-willow, was the dominant shrub growing on the margin of the rocky stream, a typical habitat for the species. Native to much of the northern half of North America (and extending as far south as Utah in its native range), Elaeagnus commutata has been planted elsewhere on the continent for use as a shelterbelt or erosion control, and has subsequently naturalized. Its silvery foliage also makes it attractive as an ornamental plant.
Daniel Moerman’s Native American Ethnobotany book provides reference to a number of uses of silver-berry by First Nations peoples, ranging from food to drugs and fibre to jewelry. As an example of the latter, Botanical Beads of the World has an image of the seeds of Elaeagnus commutata being used in a necklace. Fibre usages include cordage (rope making) to clothing (the inner bark) to mat-making.