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Please help ID shrub w/berries

Posted by JuliaFan z6bMA (My Page) on
Tue, Aug 23, 05 at 22:01

Tall shrub, with bluish-black berries ripening same time as blueberries & huckleberries. Well-drained woodland edge in Massachusetts, Zone 6. Leaves 5-6 cm (not mm as on photo), and berries about 8mm.

Is this a wild highbush blueberry? Or something else, and in that case, are the berries edible?


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RE: Please help ID shrub w/berries

While you are waiting for an expert to respond, I'll throw in my two cents: My intial take is that it is not a highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), because of the color of the berries. V. corymbosum also has an interesting bark - it looks like a dark brown or tan bark has been stripped away in segments to show a lighter underbark -- there is something muscular or shredded looking about it. But I'm not sure this isn't true for other members of the family. The location is right for V. corymbosum, but it's also right for other berry-making plants, such as various native and non-native buckthorns (the non-natives are invasive) and the huckleberries. I believe buckthorns are toothless (at least the European is), while blueberries and huckleberries have toothed leaves. The general rule with the color of blueberries and huckleberries is that blueberries are more blue than black and huckleberries are more black than blue. Also, blueberry seeds are numerous and tiny, so you don't notice them when you eat the berry, while huckleberries (at least Gaylussacia baccata) have a small number of larger seeds, and you notice them. I live in eastern Mass. and have noticed in some wetter (but not swampy) areas, a lot of dangleberry shrubs (Gaylussacia frondosa?), a huckleberry, that may match your plant: black berries, toothed leaves (I think) and larger than some of the smaller huckleberries and blueberries (I think - wasn't clear from description). My only question is the wavy white line on the berries, which doesn't seem to fit with my understanding of either blueberries or huckleberries.

As I said, I'm not an expert, so I hope someone will jump in and correct me if I've led you wrong.

-- wd

RE: Please help ID shrub w/berries

Looks like glossy buckthorn to me, a non native whose berries will purge your system.

Here is a link that might be useful: Glossy Buckthorn

RE: Please help ID shrub w/berries

Thanks, Judy B and well_drained,

The berries are bluish black. Is there a variety of buckthorn that has berries that look like huckleberries? They do not have the look of blueberries, with the matte haze. They are smoothe and shiny. The leaves are not toothed--they look just like the ones in the photo of the Glossy Buckthorn in Judy B's link.

I looked up Dangleberry (photo at link given), and all the definitions say it is a low-growing shrub (maybe what I have been calling the huckleberry). This shrub is tall, 6 ft or so.
There isn't a whitish line--that's just something to do with putting the sprig in the scanner)

I think it must be some kind of buckthorn. Thanks for the heads-up about what happens if one eats them!


Here is a link that might be useful: Gaylussacia frondosa (Dangleberry)

RE: Please help ID shrub w/berries

Buckthorn berries are black, smooth and shiny (hence the name "glossy"). I go along on a local hiking club's walk twice a year, spring and fall, as a "wildflower expert". Every fall someone asks whether the buckthorns, with their big, juicy berries so abundant in the fall, are edible. My reply (stolen from another naturalist) is always:
"Everything is edible ... once. Buckthorn berries won't kill you, but they will make you wish you were dead."

RE: Please help ID shrub w/berries

Looks like Judy got it right. Where I live we are troubled with every invasive under the sun but I can honestly say I've never seen Glossy Buckthorn.
This is easily and readily distinguished from the blueberries and huckleberries. Buckthorn leaves have a much longer petiole. Buckthorn berries are borne singly. Blueberries and huckleberries have flowering racemes which become clusters of berries.

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