what is this berry???

rebe424September 9, 2007


I have scoured the web for the identification of my berry plant but cannot find an answer. I have a photo if anyone is interested I can email it. The mature berries look like blueberries and are a dark violet inside which stains the fingers. The stems of the cluster and branch turn bright pink and after the berry fall off, a small flower like piece is left in its place. Before the berries mature they are green and are not a smooth round shape, but rather a bulbous shape sort of like a mini pumpkin. At that point the branch and stems are also green instead of pink. They are hanging over my fence in clusters. Any info would be greatly appreciated. I figured I better find out what they are before I eat them! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOU TIME!!!

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philmont_709n2(z6 Ohio)

I would guess either a sassafras, elderberry, or nannyberry.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 4:42PM
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Here is a nice picture of the Sassafras berry.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sassafras albidum

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 5:04PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Hmmm....Sounds more like pokeweed to me. The scientific name is Phytolacca americana. Don't eat the berries. :)

Here's two links for you:



Here is a link that might be useful: Phytolacca americana

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 12:35AM
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sheilaschnauzies(Z5 Eastern Nebraska)

I was very interested to read this post as I was trying to identify the same plant/berry!! Below is a picture of mine. Apparently it is American Pokeweed. I'm sure glad I didn't snarf a handful of those berries, they surely looked delish!

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 3:40AM
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fatamorgana, sounds like you might be right on the first one too, now that I re-read the description. We were thinking too hard on that one! This is certainly the time for people to notice the fruit of pokeweed.

And it IS a native plant!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 7:29AM
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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

This is one of my favorite plants, and very common this time of year. The berries are said to be poisonous to humans, but many kinds of birds eagerly eat them.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 7:37AM
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People in the South will eat the leaves, but they must be very carefully prepared. Me, I wouldn't try it.

However, my grandmothers used to make a pretty dye out of the berries. The more berries, the more intense the color, naturally. I've no idea exactly how they went about doing this, though.

Cut it back yearly, or it take hold tighter than a privet. If you have children, get rid of it altogether.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 10:14PM
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Here's the skimmy on the lovely pokeweed:

*Blatantly stolen from Wikipedia*

"Young pokeweed leaves can be boiled three times to reduce the toxin, discarding the water after each boiling. The result is known as poke salit, or Poke salad, and is occasionally available commercially. Many authorities advise against eating pokeweed even after thrice boiling, as traces of the toxin may still remain. For many decades, Poke salad has been a staple of Southern US cuisine, despite campaigns by doctors who believed pokeweed remained toxic even after being boiled."

Indeed, they can be used well for dyes. :) Eat enough of the berries and they'll kill you- however (though I would never ever recommend it), if perhaps two or three were eaten by accident you probably would live. lol ;)

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 2:26PM
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This is actually one of my favorite plants, but I wouldn't try to eat it.

Here's information on uses from PFAF (of course, PFAF has edible uses for just about everything):

The leaves are poisonous[21, 62, 76, 95]. They are said to be safe to eat when young, the toxins developing as the plants grow older. Another report says that the seeds and root are poisonous. The plant sap can cause dermatitis in sensitive people[222]. The plant contains substances that cause cell division and can damage chromosomes. These substances can be absorbed through any abrasions in the skin, potentially causing serious blood aberratins, and so it is strongly recommended that the people wear gloves when handling the plant[222, 274].

Leaves - they must be cooked and even then it is best to change the water once[1, 2, 4, 33, 95]. They are used like spinach[183]. Only the young leaves should be used since they become toxic with age[102]. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Young shoots - cooked[20, 33, 62, 102]. An asparagus substitute[183], they are delicious[159]. The shoots are sometimes blanched before using, or forced in cellars to provide an early crop[183]. The tender clear inner portion of the stem can be rolled in cornmeal and fried[183]. Although cultivated on a small scale in N. America for its shoots, caution is advised, see notes above. A nutritional analysis is available[218].

Fruit - cooked and used in pies[159, 213]. Poisonous raw, causing vomiting and diarrhoea. Even the cooked fruits should be viewed with caution. The fruit is a berry about 12mm in diameter[200].

A red dye is obtained from the fruit and used as a food colouring[183].

Here is a link that might be useful: PFAF

    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 8:56AM
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terrene(5b MA)

There are several massive Pokeberries growing along the property line with my neighbor. The birds hang out over there and eat the berries this time of year. Naturally they have spread the seed around and I have it coming up all over in the yard. It is quite an aggressive spreader but because it's native and the birds love it, I let a lot of it grow.

This year, I clipped off clumps of ripe berries and put them in a container in the freezer. I'm going to put them out in the feeder during the winter as a berry treat for the birds.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2007 at 11:25AM
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definitely poke berries or opossum berries as we call em around here. while they can be attractive, dont try to eat them, they have been known to poison some animals. berries or fruit that have been known to poison wildlife should never be ingested by humans. They may not hurt ya, but i wouldnt take the chance.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 3:14PM
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barton(z6b OK)

>>...The plant has an unusually high potassium content I was wondering if the plant could safely be composted, or would the toxin have some sort of adverse affect on the finished compost? My soil when tested is low in potassium and nitrogen.

Sure is a pretty plant. When we were kids, we would use the berries to make "war paint". Took a few days to wash off. Once we tried to make quill pens from feathers from a dead buzzard, and a jar of the "inkberries", but it never worked out very well. Made me appreciate the new fangled ballpoint pens.

If anyone knows about the compost let me know.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2007 at 10:07PM
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Just to put it out there..I am allergic to the 'sap'. I get a horrible dermatitis. Just keep that in mind if you are cutting it or weedwacking it and you have sensitive skin

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 2:03PM
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