Tips for spotting poisonous berries in the wild

A hike through the forest can be beautiful, but few are aware of the dangers that can lurk in the wilderness. Today we’re going to deal with a threat that only the trained eye can recognize as such: Poisonous Berries.

You may think you would never be so bold as to try a berry you’ve never seen before. But it only takes once to learn your lesson. Luckily, there are some simple rules that can help you avoid poisonous plants or berries in the future.

How to recognize poisonous berries

Avoiding plants with bright red, purple, orange, blue, or green berries is a good first step in deciding if a plant is safe to consume. Knowing what characteristics to look for in poisonous berries will help you identify them as such next time. Here are some tips on how to spot poisonous berries in the wild, how to tell the poisonous berries from the edible ones, and how to stay safe while exploring the great outdoors!

Watch out for unusual coloring

The first thing to look for in order to recognize poisonous berries is unusual colouring. Cleverly camouflaged berries are often brightly coloured to lure unsuspecting prey. Also look out for berries that are bright red, purple, orange, blue, or green in colour. Other unnatural colours are also an indication that the berries are inedible.

If a berry doesn’t look like it should, it probably isn’t what it appears to be. Also, note the colour and veining of the leaves. Some poisonous berries have tendrils that are noticeably darker than the surrounding plants. If a vine is noticeably darker than the leaves or other surrounding plants, you should be careful.

Consistency and unnatural environment

Some poisonous berries have a texture that is too soft or too sticky. Poisonous berries are often overly moist and/or have a waxy consistency. As a rule of thumb, if a berry looks too perfect or shiny, it probably isn’t. Poisonous ivy, spiny vine, and other poisonous plants often produce berries that look like perfect, shiny little apples.

Other berries, like American pokeweed, grow in places where they shouldn’t. The pokeweed, for example, grows in shady, damp places where the plant is not supposed to survive. This can also be an indication that you are dealing with poisonous berries.

Smell and taste of poisonous berries

Some plants produce berries with a peppery smell – beware of that. But the taste can also be an indicator: if you want to eat berries you are unsure about, chew on a small piece of them. Watch out for a bitter or unpleasant taste in the mouth after consumption. If you eat an unfamiliar berry and it tastes bitter, don’t swallow it.

Don’t eat anything you are not 100% sure about!

If you are unsure about a berry or a plant, do not eat it. Some berries are edible, but only in small quantities. Make sure you’re 100% sure about what you’re eating or don’t eat it at all. Better safe than sorry!

Common poisonous berries and plants

  • The yew: The yew is an evergreen shrub and tree species. The bark of the young tree is yellowish-green, later turning reddish-brown – and in any case poisonous. The seeds of the yew tree are also poisonous to humans and animals such as horses and cattle. The seed is covered by a red seed coat.
  • The rowan berry: The mountain ash (also the rowan tree) is officially one of the pome fruit plants and accordingly has small berries that are reminiscent of miniature apples. Still, you should stay away from the berries — at least in their raw, uncooked form. Otherwise, the parasorbic acid contained in the rowanberries will lead to stomach problems. However, if the berries are boiled, they can be eaten.
  • The common privet: This plant is also often referred to as the common privet and is part of the olive family. The black berry-like drupes of the plants are also not edible.
  • The Red Elder: This deciduous shrub is found in many European forests. The berries of the red elderberry are poisonous and lead to vomiting and diarrhoea and stomach problems when eaten.
  • Ivy: Ivy is poisonous from the leaf to the berry. There are many different types of ivy, but none of them is edible.
  • Deadly Nightshade: The deadly nightshade is a plant of the nightshade family. The berries are predominantly black, but can sometimes have a yellowish tinge, and both are poisonous.

This video introduces you to some other poisonous berries and plants:

YouTube video

It can be helpful to familiarize yourself with the various poisonous plants found in your area. A detailed list of particularly poisonous plants can also be found in the announcement by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection in the Federal Gazette.

Conclusion: eyes open and mouth shut

On your next trip into the forest, pay close attention to your surroundings and study a berry thoroughly before eating it. Also, consider the colour and texture of the berry and don’t eat anything you are unsure about.

By following these steps, you can more easily identify and successfully avoid poisonous berries in nature. So be sure to keep these tips in mind the next time you’re out in the great outdoors!

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