If you're going on vacation to North America and are planning to explore the country's great outdoors, chances are you'll find a variety of berries. So, how to recognize berries that are safe for consumption? Start by learning about the various dangerous berry species. Swallowing a poisonous berry isn't necessarily fatal, but it can cause serious health problems. This article may not cover all types of poisonous berries found in North America, but there are at least a few pointers that can help guide you.
Method 1 of 2: Applying Smart Identification Practices
Step 1. If in doubt, don't eat it
In the end, there aren't many situations where you need to eat berries to get a few calories and have to pay for it with health risks. Even in an emergency, such as running out of food, the risk is not worth it. Diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea will deplete the body of essential fluids and sugars, leaving you in greater danger than a little starvation.
- Even if you see an animal eat it, does not mean The berries are safe for humans. You may be tempted, especially if the animal is a mammal.
- The advice given below is not an absolute rule, but just a general guideline. Never eat berries that can't be identified properly.
Step 2. Stay away from white, yellow, and green berries
In most cases (some botanists estimate around 90%), these three colors indicate that the berry is poisonous. While experienced nature lovers can name or look for exceptions, it's best not to touch the white, yellow, and green berries unless you know for sure that the species is not poisonous.
- According to a rough estimate 50% of red berries are safe to eat. So, a few simple tests can show which types of berries are safe and which are not. If the berries are found in clusters, it is usually a bad sign. Berries that appear singly are usually fairly safe.
- In general, blue, black, and clustered berries (eg raspberries, blackberries, etc.) are safe to eat. However, there are some exceptions, such as pokeberries with pink stalks and dark berries, which are highly toxic.
Step 3. Don't try to taste the berries the prickly plant produces
The same prohibition applies to berries that emit a bitter odor, or a white, milky sap. We recommend that you pay attention to the following:
- The sap is milky or oddly colored.
- Berries or beans that grow in the form of pods or tubers
- Bitter or soap-like taste
- Sharp thorns or feathers
- The spurs are pink, purple, or black
- Leaves with a three-petal pattern (like poison ivy)
Step 4. Crush the berries on your forearms, lips and tongue to test the juice
An effective way to test the berries is to squeeze the berries to see if the fruit juice causes irritation. First, crush the berries on the forearm, wait about 5 minutes to see if irritation appears on the skin. Then, repeat the same process on the lips and gums. Finally, chew the berries for 10-15 minutes, but don't swallow them. If no irritation occurs, continue with the next step.
Test only one type of berry at a time. This test is useless if you can't remember which berry is causing the problem
Step 5. Eat 1-2 berries and wait 20 minutes if you really have to eat something
If you have any doubts, it's better not to take it. However, if your survival depends on this berry, eat it slowly while watching how your body reacts. If the berry is poisonous, you will feel the symptoms within the first 20 minutes.
- Even if you don't feel anything strange after 20 minutes, keep eating the fruit slowly. Eating the berries long distances will prevent toxins from building up in your body and give you time to adjust or recognize that there's a problem.
- If the berries have an unpleasant taste, it could be an indication that the fruit may be poisonous.
Step 6. Don't forget to find out or bring a guide about the plant species that grow somewhere if you intend to visit there
There are not many absolute rules for wild berries as there are too many varieties. If you're going hiking or on an expedition, bring a botanical book with names, pictures, and descriptions of the berries that grow in the area. In this way, you will recognize what is in front of you.
Step 7. Know the symptoms of berry poisoning
Most likely, you will experience severe indigestion and nervous symptoms. In general, if the following symptoms appear within a few hours of consuming the berries, see a doctor immediately:
- Blurred vision
Step 8. Avoid areas that have been sprayed with herbicides, pesticides or other chemicals
Harmless varieties of berries can turn toxic when sprayed with chemicals. Smell the berries before consuming them and stay away from large farms, farms or garden areas to avoid trouble.
- If you know the berries are safe to eat, but are concerned about pesticides, you can wash the fruit in clean water and eat it safely.
- Chemical poisoning often causes the same symptoms as berry poisoning.
Method 2 of 2: Recognizing the Most Common Poisonous Berries
Step 1. Never taste the deep blue Virginia Creeper berries
This plant has five-petal leaves, grows tall, and is very popular as a wall vine. Sometimes this plant is confused with poison ivy which has three-petalled leaves.
Step 2. Get to know pokeweed
This plant produces dark purple, flat fruit, and is sometimes called poke, inkberry, or garget. This plant includes varieties that are tall and bushy, while the flowers are long, bright pink and clustered. The fruit resembles a dark blueberry. The appearance is very appetizing, but don't be fooled because it's just a trap.
Step 3. Avoid Bittersweet berries which are orange-yellow in color
This plant is easy to recognize because the fruit is wrapped in a kind of orange-yellow capsule. Make sure you don't eat it. Bittersweet Image
Step 4. Stay away from Deadly Nightshade, also known as belladonna, or short amethyst (jimsonweed)
Many other plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) are safe to eat, such as potatoes. Deadly Nightshade has white or purple, star-shaped flowers. This plant usually grows in warm places, such as tropical America. Generally this plant is found growing vines. All parts of the plant are poisonous, especially the unripe berries. Deadly Nightshade poisoning is very serious and often leads to death.
Step 5. Never try berries produced by various ivy species
This plant is evergreen and creeping, usually clinging to trees or hanging low on the ground. The leaves are dark green, covered with wax. This plant is also called English ivy, Japanese ivy, and so on. This plant comes from Europe and Asia (with a temperate climate). The fruit is poisonous and white when ripe.
The berries of this family are very bitter. So, you probably won't like it
Step 6. Beware of the leaves and fruit of the Yew tree
The leaves are more poisonous than the fruit. Death usually occurs suddenly without any warning symptoms. The berries of this plant look fleshy and are bright red in color. The fruit has a cup-like indentation at the base. Actually, Yew tree berries are harmless, but try to avoid it as much as possible. The seeds in the fruit can instantly kill you.
Step 7. Give a kiss under the Mistletoe, but don't eat the fruit
These plants grow and survive by attaching to other plants. This parasitic plant has yellow flowers, small, waxy yellow-green leaves, and white fruit. It is not certain whether these berries are harmful to humans or not at all stages of ripening, but you should avoid them for safety reasons.
Step 8. Don't approach Holly
This “Christmas bush” plant has pointed, waxy leaves and bright red berries that are clustered together. If you eat 1-2 fruits, it probably won't cause any problems, but 15-20 can be fatal.
Step 9. Never eat Dogwood tree berries
Found in the eastern United States in the fall and winter, these dark red berries (with a slight brown touch at the tip), are usually clustered. The leaves are wide and round. Although not deadly, but you will pass the next few hours in unpleasant conditions.
Step 10. Keep your distance from Cotoneaster's big red berries
This evergreen plant has long branches that often point upwards. This tree often produces many round, bright red fruits that are hidden behind branches. This fruit looks like an upside-down tomato, complete with small brown “leaves” at the ends.
Step 11. Just ignore the yellow-orange American Bittersweet berries
These berries resemble a lemon blend with grapes and appear in clusters. The fruit is decorated with a small tail at the end, also yellow. American Bittersweet is very common in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.
- Be aware that some berries may be harmless to birds and other animals, but can be deadly to humans.
- If in doubt, don't eat it!
- Here are some handy hints that can help you identify and avoid poison ivy:
- Three-petalled leaf, ignore it!
- Hairy vines? Not my friend!
- White berries, there is danger in sight!
- Leaves are red in spring, do not approach.
- Extra leaves like snow gloves can keep you from scratching!
- Hordes of red fruit foreshadow the angel of death!
- The plants are too dense, run away quickly!
- The berry species mentioned in this article can also be found in other parts of the world, but this article focuses solely on the berries that can be found in gardens, roadsides, parks, and outdoors in the United States.
- Some berries can be cooked to remove toxins. However, if you don't have more specific information, it's best to avoid it.
- Quickly spit it out. If you eat a berry that tastes bad, make sure you spit it out. Then, rinse your mouth with water and seek immediate medical attention.
- Avoid all the wild plants you don't know about.
- Just because you see a bird eating a berry safely doesn't mean humans can do the same.
- Many poisonous plants are also used for medicine. Although toxins can be removed or processed, it is best not to make your own poisonous plants unless you have adequate knowledge and experience in doing so.
- If you think you have consumed a poisonous berry, see a doctor immediately.