10+ Different Types of Poisonous Berries To Avoid At All Costs

poison sumac berries on vine
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Written by August Croft

Updated: September 7, 2023

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Whether you are just beginning your wild foraging journey or are an old pro, it’s important to know what types of poisonous berries there are in the world. Often easily confused with edible berries, there are a few hard and fast rules regarding poisonous berries to keep in mind whenever you go berry picking. Some of those rules include:

  • Never consume green, yellow, or white berries, and be careful with red berries too
  • If your berry branches have white sap when broken, it’s probably poisonous
  • Smell the berry. If it seems bitter, don’t eat it
These are berries that you want to avoid.

However, these rules aren’t going to keep you entirely safe should you choose to forage for wild berries, Proper identification is key. Here are some of the most common and dangerous poisonous berries for you to avoid, should you go foraging in the wild.

Baneberries (Red and White)

Poisonous Berries



can eat baneberries, humans can die within a day of consumption.


One of the most toxic and poisonous berries out there has to be the aptly named baneberry. Found in bright red and white colors with trademark dots in their centers, baneberry plants are common in the Midwest. Eating only a few of these bitter berries is enough to cause sedation and cardiac arrest.

Holly Berries

Poisonous Berries

With bright red berries, holly plants are festive but also toxic.

©iStock.com/Hana Richterova

While not nearly as poisonous as baneberries, the bright red berries found on holly plants also cause some toxicity within the human body. Common symptoms include nausea and vomiting, though this typically only occurs after multiple berries are eaten. However, stay away from this holiday season favorite regardless!

Mistletoe Berries

Poisonous Berries

While beautiful, mistletoe berries are highly toxic.

©attraction art/Shutterstock.com

Another holiday season plant that you may encounter in the wild is mistletoe. When this plant’s berries are ripe, they can cause intestinal upset and some cardiac issues, depending on the species. Keep in mind that there are over 1,000 species of mistletoe found around the world, with some varieties more toxic than others!

Lily of the Valley Berries

Poisonous Berries

While the lily of the valley plant looks beautiful in bloom, it produces poisonous berries.

©Klymenko Mariia/Shutterstock.com

Delicate and artful, lily of the valley flowers are popular in a variety of ornamental settings. However, this plant goes to seed in the form of orange-red berries, which are highly toxic to humans and pets. If you want to try growing lily of the valley flowers from seed, harvesting these berries is a must. Just make sure to wear gloves and avoid consuming them!

Cotoneaster Berries

Poisonous Berries

Looking like tiny tomatoes, cotoneaster berries cover their host plant.

©Unkas Photo/Shutterstock.com

While cotoneaster shrubs are extremely popular around the world in ornamental gardens and landscaping, their berries are poisonous. This means that young children are likely to pick them, given their bright colors and prominence in backyards and neighborhoods. The cotoneaster berry looks like a miniature tomato, growing in dense clusters.

Virginia Creeper Berries

Poisonous Berries

A popular vining plant, Virginia creeper berries are toxic.

©Anna Gratys/Shutterstock.com

While Virginia creeper vines are iconic across North America for their ability to cling to buildings, the berries that this plant produces in fall are toxic. Containing high levels of oxalic acid, Virginia creeper berries can cause kidney failure and death in humans. Keep an eye out for these berries if you have young children or nosy pets!

Daphne Berries

Poisonous Berries

While they come in many colors, all daphne shrubs and berries are poisonous.


There are nearly 100 different types of Daphne shrubs, all classified under the Daphne genus. All of these evergreens are poisonous, but their berries are the most poisonous parts of all. They are a popular ornamental plant found around the world with berries in multiple colors, including red, orange, yellow, and black.

Poison Sumac Berries

Poisonous Berries

The white berries found on poison sumac should make this identification easy.


With shocking white berries, poison sumac is easily identifiable. Related to poison oak and poison ivy, poison sumac causes allergic reactions to the skin, mucus membranes, and much more if its berries are ingested. This is definitely a plant that you should learn to identify if you decide to forage for anything in the wild!

Belladonna Berries

Poisonous Berries

All parts of the belladonna plant are deadly, including its berries.

©Simon Groewe/Shutterstock.com

There’s a reason that belladonna is also known as deadly nightshade. Members of the nightshade family, belladonna flowers transform into shiny, jet-black berries once they have wilted. The entire belladonna plant is poisonous, so much so that belladonna has a long history of potential historical poisonings and assassinations.

Pokeweed Berries

Poisonous Berries

Most pokeweed plants have shockingly pink stems.


Another common ornamental plant with poisonous berries is pokeweed. The magenta stems often draw the eyes of children, though consuming only a few berries from this plant, in any state of ripeness, is enough to cause death. Pokeweed plants are common throughout North America, with their berries ripening into a deep purple color in fall.

Yew Berries

Poisonous Berries

Yew trees are known for being completely toxic.

©iStock.com/Leo Malsam

Often associated with death, every single part of the yew tree is almost toxic. It even produces bright red berries, of which the red flesh is technically edible, the only edible part of the entire tree. However, the pit or seed of the yew berry is so toxic that ingesting a single one can kill a human adult, so is it really worth the risk?

Summary of Types of Poisonous Berries To Avoid At All Costs

NumberPoisonous BerryMost Commonly Found
1Baneberries (Red and White)Midwest
2Holly BerriesEurope, Asia, and Northern Africa
3Mistletoe BerriesWestern United States, most East Coast states, and west through Texas, Mexico, and Canada
4Lily of the Valley BerriesEurope, Asia, and North America
5Cotoneaster BerriesAsia, Europe, Northern U.S., and Canada
6Virginia Creeper BerriesNorth America
7Daphne BerriesAsia, Europe, and North Africa
8Poison Sumac BerriesEast Coast, west to Texas, and north to Minnesota
9Belladonna BerriesEngland, Central and Southern Europe
10Pokeweed BerriesNorth America
11Yew BerriesEastern North America
Summary Table of Poisonous Berries To Avoid At All Costs

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About the Author

August Croft is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on astrology, symbolism, and gardening. August has been writing a variety of content for over 4 years and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theater from Southern Oregon University, which they earned in 2014. They are currently working toward a professional certification in astrology and chart reading. A resident of Oregon, August enjoys playwriting, craft beer, and cooking seasonal recipes for their friends and high school sweetheart.

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