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19 Wild Berries Eat to Survive(39 Pics, Identify Poisonous or Not)

When I go out venturing in the wild, camping, or hiking a trail, I see bushes of tasty looking, bright-colored berries that may raise my appetite.

There are a few wild berries that you can safely eat.

You’ll find plenty of such wild berries in the mountains, trails and national parks. Don’t let the word “wild” misguide you as many wild berries are not only harmless to eat but are tasty as well.

It’s crucial to know how to differentiate between the poisonous and edible wild berries for staying safe in the wild.

Edible wild berries

  • Wintergreen berries

Wintergreen is among the groundcover plants with dark green leaves and produces red berries. These berries are also named as teaberries that are perfectly edible and are used in making some flavors of ice-creams and muffins.


  • Gooseberries

Gooseberries are native to North America, Asia and some parts of Europe. They are small round berries and come in varying colours like red, purple and green. Their bushes can extend up to 1 to 1.8 meters in height. Gooseberries are available in both sweet and sour flavours. They are eaten raw and also used in making preserves, jams and wines. Moreover, they provide a decent dose of vitamin C and fibre due to the presence of an antioxidant named protocatechuic acid.

These berries belong to two major groups — American gooseberries (Ribes hirtellum) and European gooseberries (Ribes grossularia var. uva-crispa). The berries grow on erect, low, or sprawling bushes 3 to 6 feet tall with maple-like leaves and five-petaled flowers.

The flowers range from purple to greenish-white and produce nearly round, juicy, multiple-seeded fruit. The fruits range from black, yellow, and red to purple. Gooseberries are picked in the months between June and September.

Various species are found in numerous habitats, ranging from openings in the woods and swamps to fields and rocky areas. The berries vary in taste, from bitter to sweet, with most people preferring the latter. Ripe berries are eaten fresh or dried and added to food dishes to enhance their tastes. Moreover, they are added to pies, puddings, muffins, jams, syrups, and wines.


During one of my solo hiking adventures, I stumbled upon a sight that was both enticing and a test of my willpower. The trail I had chosen was a winding path that snaked through a dense forest, with the occasional break in the trees revealing stunning vistas of the valley below. I’d been walking for a couple of hours, the sound of my boots crunching on the gravel path and the chirping of birds creating a symphony of natural sounds.

As I rounded a bend, my eyes caught a splash of vibrant color against the green backdrop of the forest. There, nestled among the foliage, was a cluster of wild berries. They were small, no larger than the size of peas, and they ranged in color from a deep, luscious red to a dark, almost purple hue. The berries hung in bunches from the delicate branches of a bush that stood about three feet tall, its leaves a glossy green.

I paused, my curiosity piqued by the unexpected discovery. The berries looked delicious, like nature’s candy just waiting to be enjoyed. However, a sense of caution washed over me. I’ve always had a healthy respect for the wilderness and its rules, one of which is to never eat anything unless you’re absolutely certain it’s safe. Despite having a guidebook tucked in my backpack with illustrations and descriptions of edible plants, I wasn’t confident in my ability to correctly identify these tempting fruits. The guidebook, detailed as it was with its life-sized photos and measurements, couldn’t replace the expertise of a seasoned forager.

I thought about the stories I had heard of hikers who had made the mistake of eating the wrong berries and suffered the consequences. Some berries, though they look delectable, could be toxic, containing compounds that could cause anything from a mild stomachache to severe poisoning. I wasn’t about to take that risk, especially since I was hiking alone and help might not be readily available.

So, I did the responsible thing. I admired the berries, took a few photos with my smartphone to perhaps identify them later, and left them untouched for the birds and critters of the forest to feast on. There was a certain satisfaction in acknowledging the beauty of these wild fruits while respecting the potential danger they represented.

  • Manzanita berries

Manzanita berries come with silver and green ovals. Although the berries taste somewhat unpleasant due to the presence of tannin, however, manzanita berries have long been used for the production of cider.


  • Chokeberries

Chokeberries, not to be confused with chokecherries, are typically found in eastern North America. A chokeberry shrub is medium-sized ranging from 5 to 7 feet in height. The berries preserve a sweet taste and show numerous health advantages as well. Chokeberries are known to help prevent cancer and some cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, its juice and is sold as a health drink.

Chokeberries are quite astringent and grow on a shrub that’s native to North America. Almost all handbooks on berries suggest that they can be eaten like blueberries. They have a bittersweet taste and can be eaten fresh, however, they’re mostly used in wines, spreads, jellies, jams, teas, and ice cream. The best way to use this fruit is to juice the berries, which makes them more delicious.

Chokeberries are of three major types — purple chokeberry (Aronia Purnifolia), red chokeberry (Aronia Arbutifolia), and black chokeberry (Aronia Melanocarpa). These berries typically grow in wet woods and swamps. The fruits are rich in vitamin K, a nutrient that helps promote bone health and is needed for vital bodily functions like proper blood clotting. According to studies, chokeberries contain powerful anti-cancer agents as well as improve cardiovascular health, amongst others.


  • Partridgeberries

Partridgeberries mainly grow in North America and eastern Canada. They are dark red and resembles a lot like cranberries but a bit smaller in size.


  • Mulberries

Mulberries have a very sturdy tree whose branches have been known to be used as stakes. They are abundant in nature, and you might have seen it a lot in the urban environment. Mulberries are present in both red, dark-purple and white colors. They are juicy, sweet, soft and look a lot like a blackberry. Since they are very soft and fragile, they are not commonly supplied to stores.

Mulberries are a group of flowering plants that are native to the subtropical regions in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. These berries grow in clusters and come in both red and white varieties. Some species can be black or dark purple. Mulberry trees are incredibly sturdy, and its branches are used as stakes.

They’ve long been harvested in North Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Southern Europe, and the Middle East. The trees are prevalent amongst Greeks. The tree is almost 70 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter. Mulberries are sweet and can be eaten fresh.



While the sweet and tangy taste is quite enjoyable, are legit superfruits, it isn’t the only reason to add wild blueberries to your breakfast cereal or morning smoothie. Since they contain twice as many health-boosting antioxidants as their cultivated counterparts, you get more protection.

Wild blueberries are generally much smaller in size than cultivated ones. They also vary in color from different shades of blue to almost black. They have more watery pulp, which means less antioxidant-rich pigments from the skin, less fiber and less intense flavor per serving.

  • Saskatoon berries

Saskatoon tree grows to a maximum height of 27 feet, and the berries it produces are perfectly edible. Saskatoon berries are sweet with a nutty flavour and are purple. They can be consumed fresh or dried into making jams.

  • Strawberries

You will find them growing here and there. Watch out for faux strawberries aka snake berries.


  • Muscadines

Muscadines fruit hail from a high-climbing grapevine having spiked tendrils. They have yellowish-green flowers that bloom in early spring. Muscadine fruit has a sweet taste and can be eaten raw. Also, it is used to make juices, jams and jellies.


  • Rosehips

Rosehips are produced on wild roses. These berries are red and usually grow in hedgerows. They contain a high volume of vitamin C for which they have long been consumed. However, they are ideally processed for making jelly and other products. Remember to get rid of its seed before ingesting because the seed consists of microscopic hairs that can irritate the mouth when eaten.


  • Elderberries

Elderberries are commonly found in subtropical regions and grow in the form of clusters in black or purple colors. They come with a tart taste for which they are cooked to make them into jams, wine and chutneys. They have to be sweetened by cooking or drying in the sun to remove the bitterness.




They are found in the Northwest US. They kinda look like blueberries.



Salmonberry – they look like large shiny yellow to orange-red blackberries. They are edible.


Buffaloberries – dark read with white dots. Bears eat them.


Agarita berry – is a deciduous shrub that typically grows to around 3 feet tall and nearly as wide. It may also appear as a small tree with an abundance of flowers during its blooming season from late spring through early summer.

The bright red fleshy fruit and attractive color and texture makes the agarita berry popular for ornamental use in landscaping and making jams and jellies. The flavor of the juicy berries resemble that of grapes or blackberries depending on their acidity.

Barbados Cherry aka jelly palm is a common ornamental that may reach up to 30 feet tall. It typically produces clusters of fragrant white flowers followed by small red fruit from late summer all the way through early winter. Barbados cherries are not usually grown for their fleshy fruit, but rather as an attractive landscape specimen because it tends to produce abundant foliage and blooms year after year with little care.

The flavor of the fruit has been compared to that of grape jelly and various recipes recommend them for preserves and other food dishes featuring tropical flavors. They also have mild laxative properties similar to prunes and figs if eaten in large quantities.

Barberry – grows on evergreen shrub up to 15ft tall. The have yellow flowers that turn into red or blue-black berries.



Blackberry is a bramble fruit that grows as an arching shrub. It typically produces dark purple berries in the late summer and early fall. The fruit has a thin skin and firm flesh surrounding many tiny edible seeds and can range from sweet to tart depending on the variety.

There are several species of blackberries, with some varieties having tiny hairs on their stems and leaves while others do not, making them the most difficult berry to cultivate since they require careful maintenance during pruning season to ensure that all its branches remain free of any type of plant matter that could harbor disease or pests. They have characteristics such as long runners that root at the nodes and thorny stems.



Boysenberry is an interspecific hybrid cross of the European raspberry, blackberry and red currant. It typically produces large to very large fruit with a deep burgundy color that darkens as it ripens. The boysenberry fruit may be smooth or juicy with firm flesh surrounding many tiny edible seeds packed into its hollow center.

Boysenberries are sweet in taste, but can vary among different varieties depending on their acidity level. Some cultivars have been developed for over-the-counter sale since the early 20th century when they were popularized by prominent horticulturalist Luther Burbank.

Because of their popularity in home gardens, several varieties are available commercially. The boysenberry fruit is typically harvested in the early summer, but may be available year round depending on its growing conditions.



Berry Calories per cup
Wild Grapes 100
Rose Hips 162
Persimmon 127
Blueberries 84
Raspberries 64
Goji berries 98
Cherries 77
Boysenberries 62
Blackberries 62
Grapes 104
Acai berries 70
Bilberries 43
Strawberries 46
Mulberries 60
Cranberries 46


There are many ways can aid you to differentiate. This includes identifying through color, size, stem, bushes, and taste, all of which requires one to be educated enough on the topic. There is a common misconception regarding the wild berries that white one is safe to eat, but the red ones will get you dead. However, there are many edible red berries and toxic white berries as well. Ironically, some wild berries are although not safe to consume when raw but are edible once cooked. Similarly, few berries are not toxic but still initiate symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.

If you are not keen enough, you might go for the wrong selection and get yourself into deep trouble. To avoid such deadly wild berries that you might come across, it’s best to be familiar with them and their plants. Below are mentioned some tips that you can act upon to clear your doubts.

1. Examine the plant

Firstly, have a detailed examination of the berries, flowers, leaves, roots, and stem of the plants. Inspect the shapes, colors, and branches of the plant and notice whether the plant grows in the form of bunches and clusters. Where and in which season do they grow? All the above questions will help you, notably to identify the edible berries.

2. Notice the color

The berries red, yellow or white growing in clusters should be avoided. Only half of the red-colored berries are considered edible. On the other hand, black and blueberries are typically non-poisonous.

3. Be familiar with the climate and region

If you know what kind of wild berries to look for in a particular climate or geographic region, it’ll save a considerable amount of time and energy. Certain wild berries are only restricted to a particular area in a certain season. Therefore, you can start your search from the area where the probability of finding the wild berry is most high.

For instance, areas like sunny patches and old pastures can provide you with blackberries and raspberries. Blueberries are commonly found in acidic places such as rocky, sunny areas and sandier soil. You’ll find strawberries near forest edges or streams.

4. Look for common berries

Most of the berries that we consume in our daily life such as blackberries, strawberries and raspberries etc. are found in the wild as well. These wild berries are just as edible as the one found in your nearby store. However, the wild counterpart of these berries is typically a little smaller in size. Therefore, if you are out in the wild and looking for some wild berries to feed on, its best to start with the one you are already familiar with. This way, you don’t have to take any risk when in search of edible wild berries. However, it’s always to best to rinse clean the berries with water before eating.

5. Consult a guide

Whenever you are going out in the wild, it’s best to carry along an identification guide for edible and non-edible wild plants/berries. These guides will not only contain detailed information about common wild berries but will use clear photos of each to illustrate the difference. Also, you might find information relevant to the plants and berries found in that particular area explain where and in which season they grow.

If your local wildlife authority does not provide any such guides, then you can always revert to the internet for help. Look for the related information over the internet and print a copy of the one you find suitable. Take this copy with you when on a trip into the wilderness.

6. Hire a professional

If you don’t want to sweat yourself, you can always hire a professional expert in the knowledge of wild plants and vegetation. This way, you can easily point out edible berries from poisonous one without getting your head into books.

7. Study the bushes and trees

Apart from focusing only on the berry, studying the bushes or trees can also help you identify whether the particular wild berry is edible or not. Doing so is important because some edible berries have the same looking poisonous counterpart as well. The only way to identify the difference between the two is to look for their bushes and stems that can reveal enough information. For instance, elderberries look very similar to water hemlock berries that are highly poisonous. Water hemlock has greenish herbaceous stems while the stems of elderberries are woody. Use your guide where needed to spot the difference. It is recommended not to eat the berries if you are confused regarding its edibleness since taking chances on your well being may not be the best idea, especially if you are in the wild.

Some common features that indicate poisonous wild berries are:

  • Milky sap
  • Hairy stems
  • Spines
  • Bitter stems

8. Taste the berries

As a last resort, you can taste the wild berry and let its flavor speak for its edibleness. Remember, you only have to taste and not ingest the wild berry. Ingesting will spread the poison in your body that can eventually be proved deadly. If the taste of a berry seems somewhat sweet or familiar, then chances are the berries are safe. However, if the flavor is bitter, unpleasant or unfamiliar, it could most likely be a poisonous one so spit it out at once. If symptoms like pain, nausea, abdomen cramps do not occur, then most likely the berry is safe to eat.

Generally, you’ll be poisoned by the wild berries only if you ingest them. However, there are a few kinds of berries that are an exception to this. For instance, poison ivy can be proved fatal even if tasted. Poison should not be your only worry when planning to feed on wild berries. Few wild berries are although not poisonous but are acidic enough to make you sick, for example, American mountain ash. Such berries should be avoided to consume raw. However, they can be eaten when cooked with meals.

9. Does it cause irritation?

Another indicator of poisonous wild berries is that they may irritate the skin when rubbed on. Crush a berry and rub its juice the skin. Wait for some time and notice if the berry juice has caused any irritation on the skin. If it does irritate, this indicates that the berry is poisonous and not fit to eat. However, this doesn’t mean that the berries that do not cause skin irritation are necessarily non-poisonous.

10. Avoid herbicide plants

Chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides can turn fine berries into poisonous one. Therefore, smell the berry to figure out whether it is covered in chemicals or not. If yes, avoid the berry at all cost. However, if you are in doubt, its best to rinse the berry clean with water before eating.

11. Don’t follow the animals

Note that if animals consume a particular wild berry, it does not implies that the berry is safe for human consumption as well. It is for the basic reason that humans and other animals have contrasting digestive capabilities.

Remember to eat only a small quantity of wild berries that too if necessary. Even if you do not observe any signs or symptoms that the berry is a poisonous one, its recommended to eat only enough to keep you alive. Otherwise, there is no need to risk it. If you notice any symptoms of toxicity such as vomiting, nausea, shock or hallucinations, then it’s time to visit a doctor or call poison control at once.

Never eat a wild berry if you are not aware of it: Few poisonous berries look precisely the same as wild edible ones. Do your homework before going to pick wild berries. Study the different types of berries and the leaves and twigs as well.

Beware of the berry picking rules of the locality: For instance, in Washington D.C., you must stay in particular areas to pick huckleberries. Additionally, there is a limit conserving the number of berries you can pick in a day.

Take a companion and a mobile phone with you: The chances of you having a pleasant or uneventful experience cannot be predicted, so it’s better to be safe. While you go for it, take a compass, food, map, gear, and an extra bottle of water. Since you’ll be in a wild area, don’t forget to pack mosquito repellent and sunscreen. It’s better to be safe than sorry.



Whether you are a wilderness lover or a home gardener, you may never know whether the plants and berries that you came across daily or occasionally might be poisonous. If such wild berries are ingested, they are able enough to either cause serious health problems or death to both children and adults. Therefore, such berry plants must be dealt with utmost seriousness to ensure the safety of your children, pet and yourself.

  • Identifying the berries

A forehand knowledge of the wild berries and their plants that grow in your garden, locality or wilderness can help you a great deal. You can do so by consulting your local wildlife community office, nearby greenhouse or through the internet. Once you have the essential knowledge needed, next time you don’t have to wonder whether a certain wild berry is edible or not before eating it.

If you have a problem memorizing all the tiny details, you can keep a book or guide with yourself whenever you go out in the wilderness or for a hike. For your garden, you can use weather-proof tags with the name of the certain plant written on it and embed it on the shrub. This way you won’t forget the name of the plant or the type of berry it produces.

  • Don’t eat unless you’re sure

Whether it is a wild berry or some mushroom, don’t even bring it close to the mouth unless you are certain that it is safe to eat. If you find yourself in a survival situation in the wild, taking chances with the wild berries might not be the best choice. This is because many toxic wild berries look just like the berries that are considered safe to eat. Therefore, restrain yourself from feeding on wild berries if you feel like you still have to guess whether it’s edible or not.

  • Remove poisonous berry plants from your garden

Once you have the required knowledge on toxic berries, you can easily point out which wild berries are to be prevented. Having done so, now you’ll know which plants in your garden or area impose a threat. Therefore, to keep your children or others around you safe, you can remove all such toxic berry plants from your garden.

  • Keep the children safe

Understandably, some toxic wild berry plants such as mistletoe are used for decorations. You might be growing them yourself so might not want to remove them. So, what you can do is encapsulate such berry plants with plant protectors or row covers and label them with their name. Dictate your children not to go near them and keep an eye out for them as well. Also, teach your children how to differentiate between edible and non-edible wild berries.



How to identify edible and non-edible wild berries?

Below are some common poisonous wild berries that you must avoid.

Poisonous wild berries

  • Mistletoe

Mistletoes are widely used for Christmas decorations. They have white and sometimes pink berries grown in the form of clusters. Not only the berries but leaves and the entire plant is toxic and must not be eaten.

In fact, the leaves of mistletoe are more toxic than its berries. Even though a small number of berries if eaten won’t cause much harm, but still you’ll be able to feel symptoms such as stomach cramps and blurred vision. One must avoid ingesting a large amount of the mistletoe berries.

Mistletoe is an evergreen plant that grows white berries and attaches itself to trees and plants. According to Medieval and Nordic mythology, it symbolizes peace, friendship, and love. Mistletoe is dangerous for consumption and is used in festive decorations traditionally.

The berries are poisonous to eat, although it is not certain whether it results in death. All parts of Mistletoe are toxic, containing proteins such as Phoratoxin and Viscotoxin. There are more than 1500 types of Mistletoe globally, and some are more toxic than others.

The berries are likely to induce a severe reaction when eaten rather than taken with tea made of leaves, but symptoms range from mild to severe.


  • Moonseed

This wild wine produces berries that resemble a lot like grape and is therefore often confused for grapes. Wild grapes are safe to eat. However, it is poisonous all the way from stem to root. Similarly, the berries are toxic enough and can be fatal if ingested enough. The chief toxic in moonseed is an alkaloid named dauricine.

Grows on vine up to 6 feet tall and are common in North America.

Wild grapes may taste sweet or sour; meanwhile, moonseed berries have an awful taste. Also, moonseed does not have spiked tendrils, unlike grapevine. Therefore, if you come across such a plant with the stated features, avoid it at all cost even if you are in doubt.

Moonseeds have a single crescent-shaped seed, compared to
grapes that have round seeds. The fruit is 6–10 cm in diameter and is formed into clusters of purple-black berries, each berry is 1–1.5 cm in diameter.




  • Holly berries

Holly berries contain an alkaloid named theobromine that is common to caffeine and chocolate. Eating these berries in large amounts could prove to be fatal. Therefore, its best to keep these berries out of reach from kids and animals as well.

The branches, leaves, and berries of the holly plant are used in festive decorations, but the berries are harmful for consumption for both humans and animals alike. Eating a couple of holly berries may result in drowsiness, diarrhea, dehydration, and vomiting. Similar symptoms were found in children after swallowing as few as two berries.

On the other hand, holly leaves cause symptoms if eaten, but people usually avoid touching them because they are prickly.

  • Chokecherry

black chokecherries

Red chokecherries

A chokecherry plant is known for its wide canopies and beautiful shapes. They are common in most of the world, especially U.S. However, most of us might not realize that the berries that chokecherries produce are highly toxic to both animals and humans. Although the flesh of chokecherry berries are safe to consume, the seeds contain a toxic chemical known as glycoside which is somewhat similar to cyanide that can cause death if ingested in large amounts.



  • Jerusalem cherry

Jerusalem cherries store solanocapsine, which is responsible for causing vomiting and gastric problems if ingested. These berries have a lot of resemblance with orange cherry tomatoes and therefore can be mistaken for tomatoes by the children. Moreover, these berries are also toxic to some animals and birds. They are also known as winter cherry.

They grow naturally in Peru and Ecuador. They are a species of nightshade.



  • Pokeweed

Pokeweed is mainly found in open areas, roadside and pastures in the form of a wide bushy plant that shows quick growth. It has a strong taproot, purple berries with large leaves and produces berries mainly in fall. Entire plant along with the berries are extremely toxic and can prove hazardous if ingested. There have been cases of livestock to be poisoned due to feeding on pokeweed leaves. Therefore, immediately destroy pokeweed if you found it growing on your property.



  • Yew seeds

The yew berry seeds are considered to be highly poisonous that can cause death in a very short time. The yew seeds contain a poisonous alkaloid named taxenes. This alkaloid has the highest composition in the seed; meanwhile, the fruit itself does not contains taxenes. Although the flesh itself is edible, still you must eat only in a small amount that too if necessary for survival.



  • White Baneberry

Also known as the doll’s eyes, white baneberry can easily be identified due to its distinctive white berry with a black pupil at the centre. The baneberry plant has pink stems giving it an attractive look. The entire plant is toxic and composes of a chemical called cardiogenic.



  • Ivy berries

All species of ivy berries have some composition of poison and therefore are best to be avoided. Ivy berries stores needle-like crystals named oxalates known for causing swelling and pain in the face, lips and skin. Kinds of ivy berries include poison ivy, English creepers and Boston ivy, all of which are considered to be toxic and unsafe to eat.



  • Castor bean plant

Found mainly in tropical regions of East Africa, castor bean plant is easily one of the most toxic and deadly plants known. They typically grow in moist soil and farm fields. The castor bean plant’s seeds contain a deadly toxin called ricin. Ricin is known to be one of the most deadly natural toxic. Ingesting only as much as four seeds is enough to kill an adult. Consuming only one seed can result in symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea


Virginia creeper, aka Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Victoria creeper, five-leaved ivy, five-finger, woodbine. It is found growing in North America and considered an invasive non-native plant in the UK.

It grows on a vine, and looks similar to poison-ivy. Produces hard purple-black berries of 6mm in size. They are toxic to humans but not birds.


Bittersweet, aka bitter nightshade grows on a vine and is toxic to people and some animals. The berry is bright red with oval shape about 1 cm, unripe berries are green. Non-native to North America.

Rosary pea


Dogwood berries



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