Poisonous berries are quite common in gardens. Find out which plants including bushes and vines have toxic berries. Some people are surprised to learn that not all poisonous berries are red. Photos are included for easy identification.
This is from the book, Good Berry Bad Berry by Helen Yoest. It is a handy guide for finding and identifying the most common wild berries of North America. For edible berries, see How to transplant raspberries and How to grow strawberries.
Learn to Identify Berries
This selection from Good Berry Bad Berry by Helen Yoest is used with permission from the publisher.
How to Forage Safely
If you’re into hiking, camping, or gardening, you probably notice berries at various times of year and wonder if they are actually edible (and safe) or poisonous and to be avoided.
With so much interest in foraging for food these days, a guide book like this one is really helpful for making safe (and delicious) choices.
While the idea of foraging may seem like a natural right, it does come with responsibility. Bottom line, be sure it is legal and ethical wherever it takes place. And, get to know plants and berries so any choices are safe.
Good Berry Bad Berry | Amazon
Good Berry Bad Berry lists plants in 3 main categories
1. Bad berries (deadly and toxic)
2. Good berries Bad Idea (not toxic but horrible tasting)
3. Good berries (edible)
The book also has some recipes using aronias, beautyberries, mulberries, and gojis.
The format is very handy: it’s just 6×7″ and easy to include in your pack on a hike.
Here’s a sample page from the book showing the key information for each berry:
7 Popular Garden Plants with Poisonous Berries
Many plants have medicinal qualities which can be toxic to humans or pets and many of them grow in our gardens without ever causing a problem. You have to decide for yourself whether they may actually pose a problem for you or your beloveds.
Nature’s built-in warning system is that harmful plants and berries have repulsive tastes. I’m not sure if there’s exceptions to this, but overall, if it takes like poison, it is.
Some plants have poisonous berries that are only harmful when impossibly large amounts are ingested. Others, like Virginia creeper, are much more damaging even in small doses and can be fatal if eaten.
Common Plants With Poisonous Berries
1Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)
The flowers, fruits, and seeds are poisonous to humans, cats, and dogs if ingested.
This vine is invasive in parts of North America. (Zones 5-9)
2Common Honeysuckle (Lonicera poericlymenum)
Berries are poisonous if ingested. Native to Europe, North Africa, Turkey. (Zones 4-8)
3Pokeweed (Phytolacca Americana)
Berries, seeds, and root are poisonous if ingested raw. (Zones 4-11)
4Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)
Berries are poisonous. Would require large quantities to be toxic. No reported cases. (Zones 3-8)
5Spotted Laurel (Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’)
Berries are poisonous if ingested. (Zones 7-10)
6Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Berries are poisonous. Highly toxic. May be fatal if eaten. (Zones 3-9)
7 Winterberry Holly (Llex verticillata)
Berries are poisonous if ingested. (Zones 3-9)
More Poisonous Berries
There are hundreds and hundreds more—these are just a few.
- Cotoneaster (zones 6-9)
- Heavenly Bamboo (zones 6-9)
- Ligustrum (zones 7-10)
- Nippon Lily (zones 6-10)
- Strawberry Bush (zones 6-9)
- Tutsan (zones 5-8)
Frequently Asked Questions
You cannot tell if a berry is poisonous by looking at it. To be smart, consider all berries poisonous unless you know otherwise.
You cannot tell if a wild berry is edible by looking at it. Avoid eating any wild berries unless you have properly identified the berry and confirmed it is safe for consumption.
Unfortunately there are no color cues to inform us which wild berries are safe to eat. For this reason, never eat a wild berry unless you have identified it and confirmed it is edible.
Yes, holly berries are poisonous. According to poison control centers, ingesting more than a few berries can result in nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
There’s lots more information in the book, covering 40 common wild berries in North America.
The layout of the book makes it really easy to find the information you want.
Enjoy your garden and keep it safe,
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛