Which Wild Plants or Berries Are Poisonous or Not

Summer is on the way. Outdoors adventures will soon unfold. But it’s vital to clue yourself up on wild plants and berries that could be poisonous or harmful. You don’t want to end up in hospital after a mistaken wild garlic encounter!

Foraging is becoming an increasingly popular activity, but perhaps without the full knowledge that should go with it. It is vital you do research into your local area, or where you are going to be exploring.

Hunger can play tricks and make everything look tasty, but some berries and plants can be deadly.

Research your area to learn which wild plants or berries are poisonous or not

We have put together a quick guide to help you learn the most common wild plants and berries that either poisonous or safe to forage. Continue reading to learn more!

Wild Plants

Common and well known poisonous plants include poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. These all have poison in their names.

When the sap from these wild plants comes into contact with the skin in combination with sunlight the results can be highly uncomfortable.

Wild Garlic or Lily of the Valley?

One of the most common mistakes outdoor adventurers make is the mix-up between wild garlic and lily of the valley.

Both of these plants have very similar qualities in the leaf and the white flower. However, the lily of the valley plant can be lethal if eaten despite its medicinal benefits. 

The poisoning of this plant happens in stages. Within a range of two to twelve hours, the body weakens with stomach pains and signs of vomiting. In twenty-four hours this plant could cause damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, or lungs. It is serious.

Whereas wild garlic is a delectable favorite for foragers and chefs.

But how can you tell the difference between these two incredibly similar wild plants?

Identification lies in the leaves. The lily of the valley has a pair of leaves on a single stem, whereas wild garlic only has one. This tiny key difference could help save you a trip to the hospital this summer.

Wild parsnip

Parsnip is an all-time household favorite. While this root vegetable seems harmless, the wild variety that grows in woodlands has adapted a rather dangerous quality. 

Wild parsnip and parsnip are very similar plants and difficult to distinguish apart. The main thing to remember is to stay clear of the leaves. 

While wild parsnip looks harmless with its wildflower disguise, if the leaves come into contact with your skin you can be left with a serious rash and even a burn. Psoralen is found in the sap, and when put under sunlight this can lead to a reaction. 

This reaction can lead to reddening of the skin leaving behind dark red or brownish discoloration where the burn or blisters first appeared. This can last up to several months.

6 Common Poisonous Wild Plants to Avoid

Here is a quick list of some wild plants to steer clear of while having your outdoor adventures. There are many more out there, so make sure you do your research before heading out.

  • Rhubarb leaves (only stick to the root in a crumble)
  • Lily of the valley 
  • Foxglove
  • Hellebore
  • Skunk cabbage – deadly

For a more in-depth guide on how to identify poisonous wild plants, check out the informative video from

Wild Berries

Berries can be even more poisonous than plants. Their apparent inviting features are an evolutionary design to survive in the wild. While humans seem attracted to red berries, this is a clear signal to other wildlife to steer clear.

But of course, not all wild berries are deadly. Some are delicious and are perfect for summer foraging to add to the pantries.

There are the most commonly recognized varieties that everyone should be able to pick out. These are strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. However, there are many more equally delicious wild berries to get your paws on like, elderberries, cloudberries, and gooseberries. 

With the correct knowledge, you will easily be able to forage the summer away and prepare pies and infused gins to wow your friends. 

But make sure you don’t get fooled by some of these others.

Mistletoe – save it for the kiss

Mistletoe is often picked and used for Christmas decorations. This much loved wild plant has beautiful white berries that complete our festive looks.

However, don’t eat the berries. When consumed you could face severe stomach issues, as well as adrenal gland toxicity and damaging kidneys or even the brain.

Leave this one as decoration and out of reach of the kids.

Pokeweed berries

This wild berry is often mistaken for grapes, but don’t be fooled! The pokeweed berry contains a vicious toxin found all over the plant (roots, leaves, stem, and fruit). 

As we mentioned earlier, berries are often a plant’s way of survival in the wild. So as this plant matures, the toxin becomes stronger.

Mistaking this wild berry for grapes is not what you want. Eating the pokeweed berry is potentially fatal.

7 Common Poisonous Wild Berries to Avoid

Here is a shortlist of some wild berries to leave well alone this summer. There are many more out there, so make sure you do your research before heading out.

  • Pokeweed berries
  • Wisteria beans
  • Yew berries
  • Bittersweet
  • Virginia creeper berries
  • Jerusalem cherries
  • Holly berries

Takeaway thoughts

To wrap up, there are many fantastic wild plants and berries that you can safely forage and eat. You can find a great number of antioxidants, nutrients, and goodness in wild varieties. Some people believe there are greater benefits of sourcing wild plants and berries than shopping for them in stores.

However, there are an equal amount, if not more, poisonous varieties out there. While some of these dangerous plants or berries can just give you irritation, others can be fatal.

The lists above give a brief overview. The real amount is extensive and not limited to those mentioned above.

It is not worth running the risk of poisoning yourself by not learning what fauna is in your area. Make sure you do plenty of research into the local wild space you are going to be exploring before starting the adventure. 

Written by David Lee

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