List of Poisonous Berries and How to Avoid Them

Berries can be delicious or deadly and anywhere from very easy to rather difficult to identify. Some poisonous berries closely resemble edible ones, meaning that unless you're certain of what you're eating, you may be putting yourself at risk.

Yew. Yews are red or blue berries which grow on evergreen trees or shrubs. The seeds of yew are poisonous and make the yew a fruit you should avoid except in the case of emergency. If you absolutely must eat for survival, eat just the fruit of the yew; never the seeds.

Holly. Holly berries grow on deciduous or evergreen shrubs. The berries are red.

European Holly. A different plant from holly, European holly berries are slightly poisonous to people. They have white flowers and red berries.

Daphne. Don't be fooled by the sweet smelling green or pink flowers; the berries of the Daphne plant are poisonous.

Privet. The berries of this shrub are only mildly poisonous to humans (but eating them is still not recommended). You can recognize privet by its pretty flowers and purple to black fruit.

Pokeweed.  This is also known by other names including poke, poke berry and pokebush. Although birds can digest pokeweed, the berries are poisonous to humans. The berries are dark purple, while the flowers of pokeweed are greenish-white.

Jerusalem Cherry. The Jerusalem cherry looks a lot like a cherry tomato, making it easily confused for a non-poisonous fruit.

Elderberry. The elderberry produces white or cream colored flowers and black, blue-black or red berries.

Doll's Eyes. This is a highly poisonous berry which grows on a plant with white flowers. The berry itself is large and white with a black mark, giving it the appearance of eyes.

Since determining whether a berry is poisonous can be extremely difficult, it is best to avoid eating any wild berries unless you are absolutely certain of what they are. Poisonous berries many times closely resemble edible berries, so correctly identifying them is vital. You can purchase a field guide to take with you when in the woods to help you identify wild berries. And remember: If a berry doesn't taste the way you expect it to, stop eating it immediately.

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