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Poisonous berries of BC, how to forage safely

a insect standing on a leaf

Many of us love berry picking around Vancouver. Blackberries, huckleberries, salmonberries, thimbleberries, raspberries there are so many in summer it can be quite exciting for people like me that love a free lunch.

Here is a list of some common berries that you may find alongside the edible ones.

Twinberry (Loricera involutcrata) – Mildly toxic because it tends to absorb toxins from its surroundings easily. This shrub has shiny black berries and grows all over the North shore mountains near rivers. The berries are very distinctive and grow in 2 berry clusters about the size of a blueberry, flowers are bell-shaped and yellow in fused bract pairs. Leaves are oval and pointed at the tip. They are called raven’s food or monster food by some First Nations peoples. There are no recorded poisonings by his berry, some sites even list them as edible, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) – This is an easy one to avoid, just don’t ever eat any white berries as none of them are edible in our area.

Red elderberry ( Sambucus racemosa) – The stems, bark, leaves, roots and seeds are toxic, but the fruit pulp itself is edible (cooked). Some people make jam of the berries and strain out the seeds. The toxicity is the same as in apple seeds which contain a form of cyanide if chewed/eaten raw.

English Holly tree (Ilex aquifolia) – These red berries are good for birds but not for us, leaves are have sharp pointed spines.

Western Yew (Taxus brevifolia) – VERY poisonous. These red berries look a bit like a red huckleberry. The seed of the berry is very toxic.

Queen’s Cup (Clintonia uniflora) – It’s dark blue berries are listed as inedible.

Any more common poisonous wild plants in the Vancouver area to add to my list? Message us below…