Plant

10 Poisonous Berries to Make You Think Twice

01. Heavenly Bamboo

Level of Toxicity 2/3
Toxic Parts Berries

poisonous berries

Poisonous Profile:

Gardeners love this plant because once you really get it established in the garden, it can have beautiful fruit (and plenty of it). Also, it has stems that look a lot like bamboo canes. It should be noted that this shrub isn’t a native plant, and it’s considered invasive in some parts of the United States, especially in the South. While non-natives aren’t always a problem, this one actually can be. In fact, experts say many bird species are dying from eating these berries.

Be Aware:

The berries of this plant are actually highly toxic. They could cause vomiting, upset stomach, and respiratory problems. Consuming a lot of berries can definitely lead to death in animals.

The Bottom Line:

Don’t plant this one. Instead, find a different native shrub to put in your yard.

02. Holly

Level of Toxicity 2/3
Toxic Parts Berries

poisonous berries

Poisonous Profile:

This is one of those plants that symbolizes Christmas, winter, and the holidays for many people. Holly is often used in tabletop displays because of its rich green leaves and bright red berries. While it can grow quite big, most people keep it trimmed back to a few feet tall and wide. It can be a bit prickly (the leaves), which usually keeps kids away from taste-testing the berries, but you should still keep an eye out if you have one around. By the way, birds love the berries in winter when food is scarce!

Be Aware:

All holly berries are poisonous. If a child or animal eats holly berries, you might witness vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and drowsiness. This can occur after just a few berries, so you definitely want to take precaution if you know there have been a few (or many) eaten.

Green Thumb Up:

This plant is called dioecious, which means male and female flowers are on different plants. This means you’ll need both a male and female if you want to get the colorful berries.

The Bottom Line:

If you totally adore the idea of this classic plant, go ahead and risk it.

03. Barberry

Level of Toxicity 1/3
Toxic Parts All parts are somewhat toxic.

poisonous berries

Poisonous Profile:

This is a popular shrub for gardeners because it’s easy to grow and provides flowers in spring, great foliage in fall, and berries for birds. Some areas consider barberry a bit invasive, so you might want to check with your local garden center before planting it. Otherwise, this is one of those shrubs you can count on for years to come.

Be Aware:

If taken in high doses, it can become toxic, leading to lethargy, vomiting, and even inflammation of the kidneys.

The Bottom Line:

Don’t be eating barberry raw or straight out of the garden. If you take it in pill form, just make sure you follow the directions.

04. Elderberry

Level of Toxicity 1/3
Toxic Parts Leaves, stems, and green berries

poisonous berries

Poisonous Profile:

Trying to understand this shrub’s toxic elements can get a little tricky because many gardeners see it as a wonderful shrub for the garden. It offers year-round appeal. In addition, the ripe berries can be made into jam or even fruit wine. However, if the berries are green or you eat some of the leaves, your stomach would not agree. If you’re thinking about adding this to your yard, be sure to look for it by the botanical name Sambucus nigra and plant it in a sunny spot because it loves sunshine!

Be Aware:

If you eat parts of this plant or the berries when they’re green, you’ll likely experience nausea, diarrhea, and in extreme cases, a coma.

The Bottom Line:

Leave those berries alone until they’re completely ripe and are a dark purple or black color.

05. Chokecherry

Level of Toxicity 1/3
Toxic Parts Leaves, stems

poisonous berries

Poisonous Profile:

This is a plant that could be classified as both a tree or shrub, depending on the variety you have and then how you prune it. Chokecherries are generally great shrubs to have in your garden. They’re native to the United States, and they produce edible fruits that many use for jams, jellies, pies, and more. (Well, that’s if the birds don’t eat them all first.)

Be Aware:

This plant is a threat to livestock animals like sheep, cows, and other grazers that might come upon it in the pasture.

The Bottom Line:

Plant it! There are so many good options and new cultivars around that chokecherry poses little threat to most backyard gardeners.

06. Yew

Level of Toxicity 3/3
Toxic Parts All parts have poisonous elements, including the seeds within the red berries.

poisonous berries

Poisonous Profile:

Yews are one of the longest-living evergreens, and they are a staple in many backyards. You’ve probably seen a yew, even if you didn’t know what it was. While the entire yew family (Taxus) is huge and includes both trees and shrubs, they are very common as backyard shrubs. Plus, the berries can seem really appealing to young kids.

Be Aware:

Yews (especially the evergreen needles) can cause some serious heart problems if consumed. If left undetected or untreated, it could lead to death.

The Bottom Line:

While you definitely want to stay away from consuming this shrub, yews are great for adding year- round color to your yard. They’re also relatively disease-free and easy to care for.

07. Jerusalem Cherry

Level of Toxicity 1/3
Toxic Parts All parts, but concentrated in the fruit

poisonous berries

Poisonous Profile:

This is one of the coolest houseplants you can have. Houseplants tend to be mostly green, but when you grow Jerusalem cherry, you also get these bright and colorful fruit, which look a lot like little tomatoes. You’re not going to want to eat these, though. So the lesson here is look but don’t eat!

Be Aware:

While this plant isn’t highly toxic or deadly, the fruits can still cause some nausea and upset stomach. Plus, because of its resemblance to cherry tomatoes, it might look like the kind of thing you want to eat. Just avoid, though!

The Bottom Line:

Grow it as long as you don’t have little kids around.

08. Mistletoe

Level of Toxicity 1/3
Toxic Parts All parts, but especially the berries

poisonous berries

Poisonous Profile:

Many people don’t know this, but mistletoe is actually a type of parasite. Seems weird, right? Isn’t this just a holiday plant that encourages people to kiss? This is a plant that lives on trees, and it actually can do a lot of damage to the trees if left untreated. Mistletoe attaches to trees, and then it sucks away vital water and nutrients. If you don’t do something to get rid of it, it can actually kill the tree.

Be Aware:

For humans, it’s mostly the berries from mistletoe that you have to worry about. If you or even a pet consumes them, you could see side effects like vomiting and an upset stomach.

The Bottom Line:

If you notice a tree with mistletoe in it (it’s usually really high up), try to get help from an arborist. Remove the mistletoe, if possible.

09. Tomato

Level of Toxicity 2/3
Toxic Parts Leaves, stems

poisonous berries

Poisonous Profile:

You just can’t beat the flavor of a homegrown tomato, and in this day and age, you seriously have hundreds of varieties to choose from. Love heirlooms? You can get tomatoes in funky shapes and shades of purple, green, black, and orange. Looking to grow in containers? There are tons of options cultivated for pots and patios. Most tomato plants require about eight hours of sunlight a day, and they also need to be staked (or you can use a cage) so they don’t flop over. You’re not going to want to eat the leaves or stems, though. Yep, they definitely do more harm than good.

Be Aware:

Like the potato, tomatoes also have the glycoalkaloid chemical. This can cause nervousness, upset stomach, or even be more serious in large quantities.

Green Thumb Up:

Tomatoes are one of those plants that a lot of gardeners like to start by seed indoors. Here’s the biggest tip – don’t start your seeds too soon. This way, they won’t become “leggy” and die off before you get a chance to transplant them!

The Bottom Line:

Grow tomatoes. They are delicious, relatively easy to grow, and there are so many awesome varieties to choose from.

10. Cherry

Level of Toxicity 2/3
Toxic Parts The seeds or pits of cherries contain a substance called cyanogenic glycosides, which can act as a form of cyanide.

poisonous berries

Poisonous Profile:

There’s something romantic about having a cherry tree in your backyard. Imagine going outside in the summer and plucking off a few pieces of fruit to eat right there. So how in the world can cherries be poisonous? Is this something you need to worry about? The short answer? Not really. If you’re looking for a fruit tree for your backyard, it’s still a good candidate. Plus, the blooms in spring are gorgeous!

Be Aware:

If you accidentally swallow a cherry seed, you likely won’t have to worry because it wouldn’t be enough to do much harm. However, if you consumed a lot or if you chewed the seeds, thus releasing the substance, it could be pretty dangerous.

The Bottom Line:

They are fine to grow and even eat, but make sure you and your children don’t swallow the seeds.

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