are bird berries poisonous to humans

Poisonous Berries can cause intense symptoms, and some can even be fatal. Learn these common toxic berries and fruits to avoid when out foraging wild edible plants.

Every summer I spend countless hours foraging wild edible berries in the woods and fields around my home, and at this point, I know most of them like old friends.

There are plenty of poisonous berries or potentially toxic fruits growing nearby too, but up until now, I’ve not spent much time learning to identify those species. In truth, it’s just as important to know how to identify toxic berries and fruit as it is to know the edible ones.

I’ve started this as a list of poisonous berries I’ve come across, both in the wild and discussed online. I’ll keep adding to it as I find new species common to the US, especially those that have edible look-alikes.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but more of a starting point in the discussion. If you know of any common species that I’ve missed, please do leave me a note in the comments and I’ll work on adding them.

While everything listed here is toxic to some degree, they may not all be berries from a purely technical standpoint. Poisonous fruit or poisonous seeds might be a better title, but you get the idea.

(As always, never attempt to consume wild plants without being 100% sure of your identification, both ruling out the potential toxic look likes and positively IDing the plant. I’ve listed as many as I can find, but this isn’t an exhaustive list. Just because you don’t see it below doesn’t mean it’s edible…)

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) Baneberry (Actaea spp. ) Bittersweet (Celastrus spp. ) Boston ivy (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara), and buckthorn (Rhamnus spp. ) Chinaberry tree (Melia azedarach) Clivia (Clivia spp. ) Common ivy (Hedera helix) Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster spp. ) Cuckoo pint (Arum maculatum).

Moonseed (Menispermum spp. ) Poison ivy (Toxicodendron spp. ) Pokeberry (Phytolacca spp. ) Potato (Solanum tuberosum) Privet (Ligustrum spp. ) Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) Yew*** (Taxus spp. ).

* Only unripe berries **Some species’ berries can be cooked and still be consumed When ripe, the berry itself is edible, but the seed is toxic.

Even berries that cause poison ivy can be safely consumed by birds. The selection of berries that can be safely consumed by dogs and cats is even more limited than it is for humans because they are even more susceptible to the chemical compounds present in berries. They can be poisoned by grapes, for example.

Daphne (Daphne spp. ) Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) Elderberry (Sambucus spp. )** Euonymus (Euonymus spp. Garden huckleberry (Solanum nigrum) Herb-paris (Paris spp.) Golden dewdrop (Duranta erecta) ) Holly (Ilex spp. ).

Belladonna (Atropa bella-donna L.)

Belladonna means “beautiful woman” in Italian. This plant is also known as Deadly Nightshade. Plants belonging to the nightshade family include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, chile peppers, and tobacco. Berries of black, purple, or lavender are produced by the tubular flowers of the belladonna plant.

Belladonna is native to Eurasia and introduced to North America spanning the West Coast of the US and a few states in the Northeast. (Range Map)

All parts of the plant contain tropane alkaloids. Children should be especially careful because of the berries’ appearance and sweet flavor. Consuming 2-5 berries could kill an adult human.

are bird berries poisonous to humans

Belladonna poisoning can cause dilation of the pupils, light sensitivity, dry mouth, headache, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, tachycardia, hallucinations, acute psychosis, and convulsions.

Additionally, even though it should be fairly common, I haven’t seen this one in the wild yet. Other poisonous nightshades that I frequently encounter are Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum Dulcamara).

Comparable Edible Species: There are a variety of edible nightshades, and some of the edible species that are cultivated and wild have similar appearances to these. Their names, “wonderberry” and “garden huckleberry,” in seed catalogs, are similar to toxic nightshades.

are bird berries poisonous to humans

Pokeweed Berry (Phytolacca decandra)

Pokeweed berry belongs to the Phytolacca family, often referred to as pokebush, poke root, or poke sallet. It grows native in the eastern half of North America and part of the western United States. (Range Map)

This poisonous plant appears to be closest to livestock because it is typically found in pastures, fencerows, or barnyards. That’s a massive problem because it’s toxic to livestock.

Large, bushy, herbaceous perennials with a tree-like appearance are called common pokeweed. It features lance-shaped leaves, a big taproot, and clusters of berries that resemble grapes in the fall.

Green, pink, or red stems with greenish-white to pink flowers at the tips of the stems are characteristics of pokeweed berry plants. These blossoms eventually turn into berries, which begin as green and eventually ripen to a dark purple or black color.

Phytolaccatoxin is present in the leaves, stems, berries, and flowers of these berries. This means that in addition to humans, this plant is toxic to numerous mammals.

One or two berries might not be harmful, and some people even think they’re edible and consume them in moderation. An excessive amount of berries can cause pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if you or a child consumes them. Additionally, it may result in severe gastrointestinal issues like bloody diarrhea and hypotension.

While there is a long history of using the plants themselves (as opposed to the berries) as edible wild food, there are specific harvesting and preparation requirements. They were even harvested commercially, canned, and shipped. They are typically harvested in the early spring and must be cooked several times before consumption.

If you attempt to cook or prepare pokeweed greens, please do your research because incorrect preparation can result in toxicity. Although the berries are gorgeous, I would never advise eating them because they are thought to be toxic.

Comparable Edible Berries: Contrary to popular belief, a lot of people claim that grapes resemble pokeberries, which explains why so many kids unintentionally consume them. The two primary distinctions are that pokeberries grow on red stems instead of woody stems, and grapes are larger.

are bird berries poisonous to humans


Is it safe to eat berries that birds eat?

Anyway the berries have a rather insipid flavor, like a mushy, overripe apple, but they are perfectly safe to eat. If you crunch up a LOT of the seeds with your teeth you will likely experience some gastrointestinal distress, as the seeds contain a minute amount of toxin, so don’t chew a lot of the seeds.

What are poison bird berries?

Many berries found in the wild, including mistletoe, yew, pokeweed, and elderberry, are harmful to birds if ingested. Some common garden plants, such as lilies, foxglove, daffodils, and larkspur, can also cause poisoning if ingested by birds.