Summer at Duck Pond, White Memorial Foundation



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wild Berry Identification

Doll's Eyes
(Actaea pachypoda)


Silky Dogwood
(Cornus amomum)

 
 
 
 
 
 


Wild berries can be found throughout the summer and everywhere on White Memorial’s property. The berries are readily consumed by most of Connecticut's wildlife, including birds, skunks, coyotes, raccoons, deer, black bears, etc. With such a wide diversity of berries, varying in size, color, and orientation, identifying them can be a difficult task. Over the past month I have tried to photograph every berry I have come across, and then attempted to identify it. Handbooks such as Peterson’s Field Guide to Edible Plants can be a good source for classification. Field guides will typically feature a picture along with a description of the plant, that includes shape, size, color of the leaves and berries, and some unique features. Therefore it is important to look at both the plant and the berry. I have discovered that many fruit-bearing plants can be found near bodies of water, like streams or marshes, although I did see blackberries, gooseberries, and other berries on trail edges. Berries grow best in full sun and prefer areas where trees and undergrowth are removed, then abandoned, providing a sunny ground for fruit-bearing plants to colonize.
False Solomon's Seal
(Smilacina racemosa)

Bittersweet Nightshade
(Solanum dulcamara)

 
 
 
 
 
 



When it comes to whether or not a berry is edible, if you’re not completely positive, then don’t eat it. Stay away from unknown plants that have a milky sap, bitter or soapy taste, very bright or shiny berries, and a three-leaved growth pattern. Also, just because birds and wildlife are eating certain berries or plants that does not mean it is edible to humans. Some berries are meant only to be eaten by birds because after a bird consumes the berry, the seeds that pass through its gut are dropped and germinate very far from the parent plant. Finally steer clear of roadside plants or areas where herbicides or pesticides may have been used. With some experience and a field guide, berry identification and harvest not only can become a hobby, but also a valuable skill to always have.
Jack-in-the-pulpit
(Arisaema triphyllum)

Carrion Flower
(Smilax herbacea)
 

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