Poisonous Bush With Red Berries? Identification Trick (Poisonous Wild Berries Chart)

Woman looks confused at various red berry bushes and wonders how to figure poisonous bush with red berries identification techniques.

If foraging berries is one of your favorite pastimes, it is important for you to cultivate ways to ensure poisonous bush with red berries identification.

Many wild trees, shrubs and bushes produce annual fruits. And some poisonous wild berries, like dogwood berry, are edible for birds and squirrels, so you can’t simply watch the wildlife to know whether a wild red berry is edible.

Mastering the art of identifying poisonous bush with red berries can help you identify deceptively beautiful berries that can cause severe side effects when eaten or result in the victim’s untimely death.

Even if you do not plan to pop the berries in your mouth, knowing which bushes have poisonous berries for the sake of young kids and playful pets is extremely helpful before unconsciously planting these lovely bushes in your backyard.

This guide to poisonous red berries identification can help prevent it.

Red Berry Tree Identification

You can identify trees with red berries by leaf. Most trees with red berries have one of three types of leaves:

  • Scales

Most trees with red berries have scaly leaves. The leaves are typically near the twig, scaly, and may have berries at their tips.

  • Needles

Many trees with red berries have needle-shaped leaves that bear cones.

  • Broadleaf

Some trees with red berries have flat, broad leaves.

Poisonous Bush with Red Berries: Identification Tips

Poisonous bush with red berries identification is not as difficult as it may seem.

Identification of red berries can be achieved by looking for the following:

  • The bush or shrub has pointy spikes on the leaves or rough scratchy hairs on the leaves
  • The berry has a milky sap or smells unappealing
  • The berry juice causes a hive or other skin reaction
  • The berry is enclosed in an outer shell.

(Nature generally warns people and animals about what to eat!)

However, it’s important to note that not all poisonous berries follow these rules, and some toxic look-a-likes are difficult to detect.

Red-Berried Elder

The red-berried elder is native to the U.S. It is a deciduous bush that thrives in mountain regions, especially in dense forests and high-elevation fields. Apart from its red berries, the plant is known for its cream-colored, three to five-parted flowers that grow in circular clusters.

All parts of the red-berried elder contain alkaloids and cyanogenic glycosides, which are poisonous if ingested. Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Daphne (Spp.)

Daphne (Spp.) is a fragrant flowering bush that is native to the U.S. Its four-parted flowers are white, pink, red, or purple, depending on the species. After the flowers wilt and fall off, bright red berries grow in their place.

All parts of this plant are toxic, especially the berries, sap, and bark. Symptoms of toxicity include headache, nausea, vomiting, and convulsions.

Asparagus Fern

Asparagus fern is native to South Africa. It is usually found indoors or in small gardens and is distinguishable by its fern-like leaves and bell-shaped, yellow-green flowers, which fall off and are replaced by bright red berries.

Asparagus fern berries are poisonous. They irritate the gastrointestinal tract when ingested, and contact with the skin causes irritation and dermatitis.

Poisonous Shrubs with Red Berriesm (Poisonous Bush with Red Berries Identification)

Now that you have mastered the art of poisonous bush with red berries identification, here is how you can identify poisonous shrubs with red berries:

Black Bryony

Black bryony is common on the woodland and hedgerow edges. It has glossy, heart-shaped leaves, yellow-green six-parted flowers, and shiny, scarlet red berries that grow in clusters.

The berries are poisonous and can cause serious side effects, including severe diarrhea, elevated temperature, and dangerously slowed breathing.

Poison Ivy

This shrub has shiny, green, or red leaves with smooth, notched edges. It can be found on beaches, forests, streams, and in urban areas such as roads, yards, and parks. The plant has flowers and dense berries that grow in clusters near the vine.

Skin contact with the plant causes severe symptoms, including redness, itching, swelling, and blisters.


This shrub-like plant thrives in woodlands and damp hedgerows. It produces short-woody stems clothed in wide, rounded, green leaves and shows its best throughout June and August with red berries that turn purple-black.

Tutsan berries are poisonous, cause a burning sensation in the mouth, photosensitivity, vomiting, diarrhea, and rashes on the skin.

Poisonous Berries Chart: Poisonous Bush with Red Berries Identification

The chart below shows common poisonous berries and the edible foods they resemble.

Forager’s Guide to Identifying Toxic and Edible Red Berries: Poisonous Bush With Red Berries Identification

Humans cannot live without trees. Some of these trees bear edible fruits, while others bear poisonous fruits that can cause serious side effects.

Here is a guide to identifying toxic and edible red berries:

Barberry: Edible

The barberry tree has shiny, red berries. Its bush has thorns, and its leaves grow strange whorls. The invasive Asian species of barberry have single thorns, whereas the two native species have thorns in sets of three.

Graph that shows edible wild berries identification showing images of Huckleberry, Cloudberries, Gooseberries, Chokeberries, Mulberries, Salmonberry, Saskatoon Berries, Muscadine, and Buffalo Berries in circle frames on green background.

When split open, this berry produces a reddish pulp and typically has two dark brown seeds.

The berries are edible and rich in vitamin C; however, they have a sharp acid flavor. You can eat the seeds with the berry or spit them out.

Rose Hips: Edible

Rose hips are typically red to orange; however, their color ranges from dark purple to black in some species. Rose bushes have thorns and pinnately compound leaves. Rose hips have gray spots at the bottom of the fruit. They turn a deep red when ripe and become mushy.

When split open, rose hips produce a sticky, reddish paste. The berry has seven to fifteen yellow seeds shaped like small garlic cloves. You can eat the berries out of hand, make them into jam, or use them to make a delicious nutrient-rich tea.

Dogwood: Toxic

This understory tree is found in forests and shady areas. Its red berries have black spots on the bottom of the berry, and its innards are yellow with one pale yellow seed; however, some species may have two or more seeds.

Dogwood berries are not safe for consumption. Even though they are a staple for migratory birds, they contain naturally occurring toxins, which can negatively impact your health.

Holly: Toxic

The holly tree has shiny, deep green leaves with sharp spikes. Its red berries have one large seed and produce yellowish pulp when smashed open. Like dogwood berries, holly berries are readily eaten by migratory birds.

However, they contain several toxins that make them unsafe for human consumption.5

How To Identify Poisonous Wild Berries: Poisonous Shrubs with Berries Identification

If you spend your free time foraging in bushes or shrubs with red berries, it is important to know how to identify edible and poisonous berries.

Graphic of poisonous shrubs with berries identification showing images of Baneberry (red & white), Bittersweet (American and Oriental), Belladonna, Cotoneaster, Elderberry, European Spindle, Holly Berry & Winterberry, Lily of the Valley, Mistletoe (American), and Moonseed in circle frames on green background.
Below is a list of poisonous berries you will likely come across in the wild:

1. Baneberry, Red (Actaea Rubra)

Baneberry, Red (Actaea Rubra) also known as Western Baneberry, Red Cohosh, or snakeberry, is one of the most commonly encountered species by hikers.

Close up image of a Baneberry with its green leaves and and bright red berry fruits.


This plant is a herbaceous perennial. It reaches its full height in the spring and produces flowers and fruit; however, when winter temperatures arrive, it dies down to ground level.

The plant has long roots and feathery, serrated leaves with a wooly underside. In May and June, the plant produces small, fragrant white flowers, which turn into clusters of red berries at the end of summer.

Individuals may experience side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, headaches, and stomach cramps after eating the berries. Even worse, consuming six or more berries may lead to circulatory failure.

A close-up of a baneberry plant with its distinctive white berries and black dots.

(Image: kemper7)

2. Baneberry, White (Actaea Pachypoda)

Baneberry, White (Actaea Pachypoda), also known as dolls’ eyes, is a poisonous berry found mostly in North America but spreads from the Midwest to the Eastern U.S. and Canada.

Its berries are white with black dots and usually capture children’s attention since they look like plastic doll eyes. Bird can eat this berry, but it is highly toxic to humans.

3. Bittersweet, American & Oriental (Celastrus Sp.)

Bittersweet, American & Oriental (Celastrus Sp.) is also known as Jacob’s ladder, False Ladder, Climbing Bittersweet, Climbing Orange-Root, Fever Twitch, Fever-Twig, and Staff Vine. It is native to North America, spanning the U.S. and Canada.

Close up image of Climbing Bittersweet with its red and white berry fruits and green leaves.

(Image: Greenmars8)

It is one of the most dangerous trees in the world since all parts are poisonous, causing stomach upset and diarrhea.

Close up image of a Belladonna with its blooming red flowers and purple-black berries.

(Image: NoName_139)

4. Belladonna (Atropa Bella-Donna L.)

Belladonna (Atropa Bella-Donna L.) is also known as Deadly Nightshade. It has tubular-shaped flowers that produce lavender, purple, or purple-black berries. It is native to England, Central and South Europe, and North America.

All parts of the Belladonna are poisonous, containing tropane alkaloids. Children are more likely to eat Belladonna berries because of their attractive color and deceptively sweet taste.  Yet, it takes two Belladonna berries to kill a child and ten to twenty berries to kill an adult who eats them.

Symptoms of Belladonna poisoning include:

  • Vertigo
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Dry Mouth
  • Convulsions
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Blurred Vision
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of Balance

5. Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster Sp.)

Cotoneaster is also known as Rock Spray Cotoneaster and Rock Cotoneaster. It is native to China but loves regions with cooler temperatures.

Close up image of a Cotoneaster with its red berries and green round leaves.

(Image: cocoparisienne10)

Cotoneaster species are typically shrubs, ranging in height from three to seven feet. It is a deciduous shrub with small, rounded leaves that remain green throughout the year.

In the fall, its leaves turn red-orange. In the spring, pink flowers blossom across the shrub. As the months go by, the flowers fall off, and small berries grow in their place. The berries start as yellow but turn bright red when ripe.

Cotoneaster berries can cause weakness, seizures, and trouble breathing when eaten in large amounts.

Close up image of an Elderberry with its black berries in a red stem.

(Image: Anemone12311)

6. Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra)

Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra) is also known as Elder, Common Elder, or Black Elderberry. It is native to North America, spanning across the U.S. and Canada.

Its berries are edible when cooked but poisonous when raw. Also, other parts of the plants, including the leaves, stems, and roots, are poisonous when consumed.

Symptoms of Elderberry poisoning include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.

7. European Spindle (Euonymus Europaeus)

Otherwise known as Spindleberry, Prickwood, and Prick Timber, the European Spindle is a deciduous plant that looks like a large shrub. It grows all over Europe and North America.

Close up photo of a European Spindle with its pink capsule and red leaves.

(Image: WolfBlur12)

Pink fruit capsules grow all over the shrub; with time, they split and reveal bright orange berries. The pink capsules and orange berries growing against the green leaves are a sight to behold, which is why the European Spindle is an ornamental plant in many locations.

European Spindle berries are poisonous. European Spindle berry poisoning symptoms include chills, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, and convulsions. In extreme cases, ingestion may cause kidney failure, unconsciousness, or death.

It takes thirty berries to kill an adult and only two to five berries to kill a child.

Close up image of a Holly Berry with its bright red berries and dark green, and sharp leaves.

(Image: Molisandor13)

8. Holly Berry & Winterberry (ilex Sp.)

Holly Berry is also known as Yule Holly or Christmas Holly. It is native to the lower U.S. states. On the other hand, Winterberry grows in the Eastern half of Canada and the U.S.

Both plants have bright red berries that grow during the winter and fruited branches that are used as Christmas decorations.

The berries are mildly poisonous to humans but are readily eaten by songbirds, game birds, and other mammals. Symptoms of berry poisoning include nausea and low blood pressure.

9. Lily of the Valley (Convallaria Majalis)

Lily of the valley is a favorite among gardeners and a staple in the floral industry. It is native to the lower 48 U.S. states.

Close up image of a Lily of the Valley with its small, white, bell shaped flowers and broad, green leaves.

(Image: herbert251214)

The leaves, flowers, and fruit of the lily of the valley are dangerous. A small amount can cause hives, fatigue, confusion, vomiting, abdominal pain, and reduced heart rate.

There are over 38 different cardiac glycosides in the lily of the valley that can cause heart attacks and death.4

Close up photo of a Mezereon or February Daphne with its thick rounded shrub with pink flowers.

(Image: Hans15)

10. Mezereon or February Daphne (Daphne Mezereum)

February Daphne also goes by Spurge Lauren, Paradise Plant, or Spurge Olive. It is native to Siberia and Europe but grows in upper Eastern Canada and U.S., as well as Montana and Canada.

It is a thick rounded shrub with pink or white fragrant flowers and small, red berries that appear in late summer.

The twigs and berries of the plant contain toxic compounds, and contact with the sap can irritate the skin. Symptoms of Mezereon poisoning include:

  • Thirst
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Skin Irritation with Blisters
  • Swelling of Lips and Tongue

11. Mistletoe, American  (Phoradendron Leucarpum)

Commonly known as False Mistletoe, Oak Mistletoe, and Eastern Mistletoe, American Mistletoe is the most used for Christmas decorations in the United States.

Close up image of a Phoradendron Leucarpum with its white berries, green leaves and branches.

(Image: Douglas Goldman16)

American Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic shrub with inconspicuous flowers that produce white berries.

The berries are coated with a sticky substance that is loved by birds but poisonous to humans. Symptoms of Mistletoe poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and blurred vision.

Close up image of a Moonseed and its greenish-white flower buds.

(Image: Cbaile1917)

12. Moonseed (Menispermum Canadense)

Moonseed is also known as Yellow Parilla or Canadian Moonseed. It is native to the United States and Canada and grows in moist thickets, woods, and stream banks.

Moonseed is a climbing vine with tiny, greenish-white flowers. Its berries ripen in September, turning blue to black, with a white-powdered bloom.

Birds eat Moonseed berries without apparent harm, but the berries are poisonous to humans. Children often eat Moonseed berries after mistaking them for wild grapes (the resemblance is uncanny).

When eaten, gastrointestinal irritation occurs shortly after, consisting of diarrhea and vomiting. Eating many moonseed berries can cause convulsions or, even worse, death.

13. Nightshade, Bittersweet (Solanum Dulcamara)

Other names for the Bittersweet Nightshade include Woody Nightshade, Bitter Nightshade, and Scarlet Berry. Bittersweet Nightshade is native to Asia and Europe. It also grows in North America, except in Hawaii and Alaska.

Close up image of a Nightshade with its green, orange and red berries, green leaves and stems.

(Image: Nennieinszweidrei18)

This plant is a perennial vine that thrives near creeks, field edges, wetlands, and roadsides. It produces purple, star-shaped flowers with stamens and a bright yellow cone from May to September.

Over time, the flowers wilt and are replaced by round berries that start as green and ripen to a bright red.

All parts of the Bittersweet Nightshade are poisonous to pets, livestock, to humans. Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and skin irritation.

Photo of a Poison Sumac with its green oval leaves.

(Image: Freekee19)

14. Poison Sumac Berry (Toxicodendron Vernix)

Poison Sumac is also known as Thunderwood and Swamp Sumac. It grows in Eastern North America and thrives in wet areas such as swamps and streams. It has pinnate leaves that look like feathers and grows up to thirty feet tall.

Poison Sumac produces berries that grow in loose clusters. Its white berries contain a poisonous substance known as urushiol, which is also found in the plant’s close cousin, poison ivy.3

Touching the plant causes itchy rashes while eating the berries causes lung inflammation and fluid build-up in the lungs.

15. Pokeweed Berry (Phytolacca Decandra)

Pokeweed Berry is often referred to as Poke Sallet, Poke Root, or Poke Bush. It is native to the Northern and Western U.S. and is mostly found in corrals, pastures, and fencerows.

Close up image of a Pokeweed Berry with cluster of dark purple berries and green leaves.

(Image: mari_di_ann20)

The pokeweed berry is a large, dense shrub. Its leaves are lance-shaped, and its stems are red, pink, or green, producing clusters of berries in the fall. The berries start as green and turn dark purple when ripe.

The plant contains phytolaccatoxin in the berries, stems, and leaves, making them poisonous to humans and livestock. Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Close up image of a Snow Berry with its creamy white berries and green leaves.

(Image: Jonathan Billinger21)

16. Snow Berry (Symphoricarpos Sp.)

Snow Berry is native to the Northern part of the U.S. It thrives in moist slopes, clearings, and open forests.

Its leaves are oval with smooth, serrated edges and a fuzzy underside. It has tiny, pink flowers that grow in dense clusters, which fall off in the fall and are replaced with snow-white berries (hence the name).

Snowberries are poisonous, containing large amounts of saponins, which are poisonous to humans and animals, including fish. Eating these berries can lead to sedation in children and dizziness and vomiting in adults.

17. Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus Quinquefolia)

Virginia creeper is native to the Eastern half of North America. It thrives in new and old stream banks, fencerows, clearings, and forests. Its leaves have five leaflets, and the plant has green flowers, which grow in small clusters.

Close up photo of a Virginia Creeper with its blue berries, red leaves and dark pink stems.

(Image: mbc-201622)

In the summer, the flowers fall off and are replaced with bluish-black berries that contain two to three seeds.

The berries are valued by birds and other wildlife but are poisonous to humans.1 Chewing the leaves or berries can irritate the lips, mouth, and tongue. Swallowing the berries can cause nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Close up photo of a Yew Berry with its green narrow leaves and dark pink berries.

(Image: ArmbrustAnna23)

18. Yew Berry (Taxus Sp.)

The most popular types of garden trees are:

Although not as popular, the Yew Tree is an evergreen tree that is native to Vermont. It is mainly grown as a landscape tree since it grows into dense evergreen that is easy to prune.

Its leaves are flat, dark green, and are usually one inch in length. Moreover, its leaves are aligned in two flat rows on both sides of the stem.

The plant has seed cones containing single seeds. The seed cones are surrounded by a fleshy scale, which morphs into a spongy, bright red structure called an aril.

The yew berry is edible, but its seeds are poisonous.2 Chewing the yew berry seed kills a person within minutes by sending them into cardiac arrest.

If you are unsure about the bush or shrub species a berry is from, you should never eat it. Also, if you have plants in your garden or houseplants that grow poisonous berries, you should keep them away from young hands and pets.

Red berries from certain plants contain poisonous substances that can severely impact your health and that of your young ones and pets. However, red berries from other plant species are edible and can be used in cereals, salads, and desserts.

Always be cautious when foraging berries and never eat any berry unless you know for certain it isn’t a toxic look-alike.

By using a poisonous bush with red berries identification chart or by planting species of edible red berries, you’ll stay on the safe side.

Frequently Asked Questions About Poisonous Bush With Red Berries Identification

Is Poisonous Bush With Red Berries Identification Difficult?

Poisonous bush with red berries identification is not difficult. All you need to do is stay away from berries on bushes with spines, milky sap, or bitter smells.

Can You Tell Whether a Berry Is Poisonous by Looking at It?

You cannot tell whether a berry is poisonous or not by looking at it. To be safe, consider all berries toxic until you can prove otherwise.

What Is the Most Poisonous Berry?

The most poisonous berry is the Belladonna. It only takes two berries to kill a child and ten to twenty berries to kill an adult.

What Happens if You Eat a Poisonous Berry?

If you eat a poisonous berry, you can experience severe side effects such as convulsions, blurred vision, bloody diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and cardiac arrest.

Can You Die From Eating Poisonous Berries?

Some poisonous berries only cause uncomfortable symptoms, which die down after seeking emergency services. Other berries contain high levels of toxic compounds, such as saponins, which can kill the victim within minutes of ingestion.

Is a Thorny Bush With Red Berries Poisonous?

Some berries grow in thorny bushes, but that does not automatically make them poisonous. Whether or not a berry is poisonous depends on the species: not the thorns in the bush.

Are There More Evergreen Shrubs With Red Berries Than Trees?

There are more trees than evergreen shrubs. There are 3.04 trillion trees and 630 species of evergreen shrubs; however, only a handful of these species have been planted across the globe.


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2Krenzelok, E., Jacobsen, T., & Aronis, J. (1998, October n.d.). Is the yew really poisonous to you? PubMed Central. Retrieved December 3, 2022, from <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9656977/>

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