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7 Most Poisonous Berries With Photos and Descriptions

Photo credit: pixsellr / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution
Photo credit: pixsellr / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution

Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna)

Atropa Belladonna, commonly known as "deadly nightshade", is a perennial herb native to Europe, North Africa, Western Asia, and has been naturalized in parts of North America. Throughout the ages the plant has been used as a medicine, cosmetic, and poison. Other plants in the nightshade family include: tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, tobacco, and chili peppers. The term "belladonna" means "beautiful woman" in Italian.

Characteristics

The deadly nightshade grows from a fleshy rootstock, often as a subshrub to around 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) tall with 18 centimeter (7.1 inches) long oval shaped leaves. It's flowers are bell-shaped and are purple with greenish tinges. Its fruits are berries that start out green and ripen to a shiny-black. The berries are around 1 cm in diameter (0.39 inches).

Toxicity

Deadly nightshade is one of the most toxic plants in the eastern hemisphere as all parts of the plant contain tropane alkaloids. The berries of the plant pose the greatest hazard to children because of their attractive appearance and sweet taste. Consumption of 2-5 berries could kill an adult human. The symptoms of belladonna poisoning include dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, headache, loss of balance, blurred vision, confusion, hallucinations, and convulsions. The deadly symptoms disrupt the parasympathetic nervous system (involuntary activities such as sweating, heart rate, and breathing) leading to death if not treated.

Photo credit: don_macauley / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution
Photo credit: don_macauley / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution

Moonseed (Menispermum)

Menispermum, or "moonseed", is a small type of climbing woody vine in the genera: Cocculus, and is particularly native to North America and Asia. The name, moonseed, comes from the shape of the seed, which looks like a crescent moon. The term "menispermum" is derived from the Greek words mene, which means moon, sperma meaning seed.

Characteristics

Its green leaves are around 5-20 cm in diameter and its berries are around 1-1.5 cm in diameter. The berries are black in color and resemble that of the fox grape, making it very dangerous as the moonseed fruit is poisonous. It occurs in moist woods, thickets, and the banks of streams

Toxicity

All parts of the moonseed plant are poisonous and children have been killed from eating the berries. It is described to have a "rank" taste. General symptoms include convulsions and death.


Photo credit: benet2006 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution
Photo credit: benet2006 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution

White Baneberry (Actaea Pachypoda)

Actaea Pachypoda, also known as "White Baneberry" or "dolls'-eyes" is a perennial herb native to eastern North America.

Characteristics

White Baneberry grows up to 50 cm or more tall (1½ to 2 feet) and 91 cm (3 feet) wide. The plant prefers to grow in partial to full shade, rich loamy soil, and requires regular water. It's white flowers are produced in spring. It produces a berry 1 cm in diameter that is round and white with a black dot in the middle, giving the species its nickname: "doll's-eyes". The entire plant, especially the berries are poisonous to humans.

Toxicity

Doll's-eyes are entirely toxic to humans. The berries contain cardiogenic toxins which can have an immediate sedative affect on cardiac muscle tissue, and are the most poisonous part of the plant. Ingestion of the berries can lead to cardiac arrest (heart attack) and death.


Photo credit: *k59 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution
Photo credit: *k59 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution
Photo credit: born1945 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution
Photo credit: born1945 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution

Elderberry (Sambucus)

Sambucus, or "elderberry" is a genus of flowering plants containing between 5 and 30 species. It is a perennial herb and occurs in temperate to subtropical regions of the world, more widespread in the northern hemisphere. Its southern hemisphere occurrence is restricted to Australasia and South America. The uncooked berries and other parts of the plant are poisonous, however, the species sambucus nigra is the only elderberry species considered to be non-toxic.

Characteristics

The leaves are composed of around 5-9 leaflets, each 5 to 30 cm long (2-11.8 inches). They bear large clusters of small white or cream-colored flowers in spring. These are followed by clusters of small black, blue-black, or red berries. The berries are rarely yellow or white.

Toxicity

The entire elderberry plant is poisonous to humans because they can contain cyanide-inducing glycosides, which give rise to cyanide as the metabolism processes it. Ingesting a sufficient amount of these cyanide-inducing glycosides can cause a toxic build up of cyanide in the body which can be fatal. Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.


Photo credit: Dendroica cerulea / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution
Photo credit: Dendroica cerulea / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution
Photo credit: MiikaS / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution
Photo credit: MiikaS / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

If you've seen AMC's hit show: Breaking Bad, then you probably already know about Convallaria majalis, better known as "lily of the valley". If not, you're missing out on a great series. Either way, here's why it made the list:

Lily of the valley is a highly poisonous woodland flowering plant, native throughout the cool temperate northern hemisphere in Asia, Europe, and in the southern Appalachian Mountains in the United States.

Characteristics

The stems grow to 15-30 cm tall (6-11.8 inches) with one or two leaves 10-25 cm (4-9.8 inches) long. It has a raceme of about 5-15 sweetly-scented bell shaped flowers on the stem apex. The flowers have six white tepals with a 5-10 mm diameter. The fruit of the plant is a small orange-red berry, 5-7 mm in diameter, that contains a few large seeds.

Toxicity

All parts of lily of the valley are highly poisonous, especially the red berries which may be attracting to children. If ingested even in small amount, the plant can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, confusion, fatigue, and reduced heart rate. Around 38 different cardiac glycosides have been found in lily of the valley which can lead to cardiac arrest (heart attack) and death.

Photo credit: BioDivLibrary / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution
Photo credit: BioDivLibrary / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution

Mezereon (Daphne Mezereum)

Daphne mezereum, commonly known as mezereon, is a species of Daphne native to most of Europe, Western Asia, Scandinavia, and Russia.

Characteristics

It is a shrub that grows up to 1.5 meters tall (4.9 feet) and has soft leaves that are 3-8 cm long (1.1-3 inches). The flowers are produced in early spring before the leaves appear. The fruit is a bright red berry, 7-12 mm in diameter and is very poisonous for humans.

Toxicity

Mezereon is very toxic because of the compounds mezerein and daphnin present in its berries and twigs. If poisoned, victims experience a choking sensation (burning and tingling of the mucous membranes of the mouth, throat, and stomach). Ingesting one or two berries can cause severe poisoning in children, while ingesting twelve berries can be fatal for an adult human.

Photo credit: Foter / Creative Commons Attribution
Photo credit: Foter / Creative Commons Attribution

Flax-Leaved Daphne (Daphne Gnidium)

Daphne Gnidium, commonly known as flax-leaved daphne is an evergreen shrub indigenous to the Mediterranean region. It is commonly found in fields, hillsides, and woodlands. It has narrow, dark-green foliage and white fragrant flowers. Like the mezereum, it is within a genus of between 50 and 95 other species of daphne.

Characteristics

The branches of flax-leaved daphne are around1.5-2 m (4.11-6.7 feet) tall. The leaves are dark green with sticky undersides. Its fruit are orange-red and are about 8 mm in diameter. It produces during autumn.

Toxicity

All parts of the flax-leaves daphne plant are highly poisonous. Skin contact with the sap can cause dermatitis. If ingested, chance of death is small but probable within 6 hours after consumption. Severe anabolic and indigestive reactions are expected. Its especially toxic to children and mortality rate is around 30%.

Note

  • Not all animals are affected by poisonous plants. Birds especially are not a good indication of whether a berry is poisonous or not.
  • Never eat a berry that you are unsure of, especially if it is red or black.
  • There are many poisonous and deadly plants in the world, however, only those with highly poisonous berries are shown for the purpose of this list.

© 2014 Giovanni

5 comments

Glutathione PRO profile image

Glutathione PRO 2 years ago

Thanks for posting this great hub! I don't make a habit of eating random berries I find, but perhaps I could start now that I know which to avoid :)


Giovanni Aceto profile image

Giovanni Aceto 2 years ago from the United States Author

Thanks thumbi7! Your hubs have great photos as well.


thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 2 years ago from India

Very interesting hub. Your photos are beautiful.


Giovanni Aceto profile image

Giovanni Aceto 2 years ago from the United States Author

Thanks for commenting Leslie. You can't beat the taste of wild berries that's for sure!


LeslieAdrienne profile image

LeslieAdrienne 2 years ago from Georgia

God has saved many a kid over the years... We would taste any berry that grew on a tree, bush or alongside the neighbors fence.... But for the grace of the Living God I would have been dead a long time ago!

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