Decoding Blackberries: Identifying Poisonous Lookalikes among Berries

Berries are a delicious and nutritious addition to our diets, and blackberries are among the most popular choices. Their rich flavor and deep purple color make them a favorite for many people. However, when foraging for berries, it is important to exercise caution and ensure that you can distinguish between edible and potentially poisonous fruits. In this article, we will explore whether there are berries that resemble blackberries but are toxic or poisonous.

Identifying blackberries

Before delving into the topic of potentially poisonous berries, it is important to understand how to accurately identify blackberries. Blackberries belong to the genus Rubus, and their scientific name is Rubus fruticosus. They are typically characterized by their dark purple or black color when ripe, their sweet flavor, and their distinctive aggregate fruit structure made up of multiple small drupelets.

Common lookalikes:

  1. Dewberries: Dewberries are often confused with blackberries because of their similar appearance. They belong to the same genus, Rubus, and share many physical characteristics with blackberries. Dewberries are generally smaller and less plump than blackberries, and their color can range from deep purple to black. However, they are perfectly safe to eat and, like blackberries, are often used in culinary applications.
  2. Nightshade Berries: While blackberries themselves are safe to eat, there are several species of nightshade berries that can resemble blackberries in appearance. Nightshade berries, such as deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) or bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara), can grow on low shrubs or vines and may have a similar dark color. It is important to note, however, that these nightshade berries are highly toxic and should never be ingested.
  3. Pokeweed berries: Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a plant native to North America that produces dark purple berries that can be mistaken for blackberries. While the ripe berries may resemble blackberries, it is important to note that all parts of the pokeweed plant, including the berries, leaves, and roots, are toxic if ingested. It is best to avoid eating pokeweed berries altogether.

Safety Precautions

To ensure your safety when foraging for pokeweed or other wild berries, it is important to follow these guidelines:

  1. Accurate identification: Familiarize yourself with the characteristics of blackberries and their look-alikes to avoid confusion.
  2. Consult field guides or experts: When in doubt, consult reliable field guides or local experts who can help you accurately identify berries.
  3. Avoid unfamiliar berries: If you are unsure of the identity of a berry, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid eating it.
  4. Wash thoroughly: Before consuming wild berries, be sure to wash them thoroughly to remove any dirt, insects, or potential contaminants.

What to do if you accidentally consume an unfamiliar berry

If you eat an unfamiliar berry and are unsure of its safety, it is important to take immediate action. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Stay calm: It’s natural to be concerned, but try to stay calm and avoid panic. Staying calm will help you make rational decisions.
  2. Spit It Out: If you haven’t swallowed the berry completely, spit it out immediately to minimize the amount of potentially harmful substances entering your system.
  3. Rinse Your Mouth: Take a sip of water and swish it around your mouth to rinse out any remaining berry residue. Do not swallow the water.
  4. Identify the berry: If possible, try to identify the berry by comparing it to pictures or descriptions in field guides or online resources. Note its color, shape, and any distinguishing characteristics.
  5. Seek medical attention: Contact your local poison control center or seek immediate medical attention. Give them accurate information about the berry you ingested and follow their instructions. They are trained professionals who can give you the guidance you need based on your specific situation.
  6. Save a sample: If it is safe to do so, save a sample of the berry or take a clear photograph of it. This can help medical professionals identify the berry and determine the appropriate course of action.
  7. Monitor symptoms: Pay close attention to any symptoms that may develop after consuming the unfamiliar berry. These may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, difficulty breathing, or any other unusual reaction. Inform your health care provider about any symptoms you experience.

Remember, it is better to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention even if you are unsure about the potential toxicity of the berry. Prompt medical intervention may be crucial in mitigating any adverse effects and ensuring your well-being.

Bottom Line

While blackberries are generally safe to eat and enjoy, it is important to be aware of potential lookalikes that may be toxic or poisonous. Dewberries are a common blackberry lookalike and are perfectly safe to eat, while nightshade and pokeweed berries should be avoided due to their toxicity. Always exercise caution, properly identify berries, and seek expert advice when foraging for wild fruits to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.


Are there any berries that look like blackberries that are poisonous?

Elderberries and Their Lookalikes Elderberries (Sambucus nigra) are another native species that grow throughout the United States. They are commonly used to make a syrup to help treat colds and flu, but some pickers avoid them because there are a couple of dangerous lookalikes.

How can you tell if a Blackberry is safe to eat?

Pick Only Ripe Berries: Blackberries and raspberries won’t ripen after you pick them, so only take the best ones. Ripe berries are large, plump, deeply colored, and easily slip off the stem. If you have to tug, it isn’t ripe.

Are wild blackberries OK to eat?

Grown in clusters along hedgerows, it is safe to eat wild blackberries found in the UK, although you should wash and freeze them first to kill any bugs. The blackberry should not be confused with the black raspberry, which looks almost identical. The easiest way to tell the difference is by the core.

What berries are poisonous to humans?

Here are 8 poisonous wild berries to avoid:

  • Holly berries. These tiny berries contain the toxic compound saponin, which may cause nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps ( 51 ).
  • Mistletoe.
  • Jerusalem cherries.
  • Bittersweet.
  • Pokeweed berries.
  • Ivy berries.
  • Yew berries.
  • Virginia creeper berries.


Can wild blackberries make you sick?

A food allergy to blackberries can cause diarrhea to develop shortly after eating blackberries. Blackberries contain proteins that your immune system may recognize as dangerous, although they’re safe for human consumption.

What do poison berries look like?

The leaves are stiff with sharp points and may be edged with white. The berries are hard and bright red. Eating more than three holly berries can cause severe and prolonged nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as drowsiness.

When should you not eat blackberries?

It’s time to eat as many blackberries as you can find and stuff in a pie. After September 29, those celebrating the feast of Michaelmas warn you not to eat them.

What berry looks like a blackberry but grows on a tree?

Mulberries (Morus) are black berries that grow on trees, however, you shouldn’t confuse them with similar-looking and tasting blackberries (Rubus).

How can you tell if a blackberry is a Dewberry?

Dewberries have smaller fruit and grow with trailing stems along the ground, whereas cultivated blackberries have larger fruit and a more upright growth pattern. Some are thornless and have a better flavor to their fruit.

Are there any poisonous berries that look like blueberries?

Nightshade berries, also known as Solanum nigrum, are a dangerous blueberry lookalike. These berries grow in clusters and look very juicy. If you are unaware of the deadly berries you may come across in the wild, these dark purple berries may look too attractive for you to not pick them and eat them.

How can you tell if a wild berry is poisonous?

Quote from video: If the fruit grows in small clusters. It’s likely poisonous. While those that grow as single berries are more likely to be edible.

How can you tell if wild berries are edible?

How to Identify Edible Wild Berries

  1. Clustered skin is a good sign. Aggregate berries are made up of tightly packed clusters, like raspberries, salmonberries, thimbleberries, and mulberries.
  2. Blue, black, and purple skin is a good sign.
  3. Orange and red is 50/50.
  4. Avoid green, white, and yellow berries.


Are the little red berries in my yard poisonous?

If the berries produce sap that is either odd-colored or milky, they are poisonous. Available information shows that 90 percent of yellow and white berries are deadly if consumed, and approximately half of the known red berries are toxic for human consumption.

Are there really poisonous berries?

Pokeweed Berries (Phytolacca americana)

These purple berries resemble grapes, but the roots, leaves, stem, and fruit contain toxic substances. As it matures, this plant appears to become more poisonous, and therefore consuming the berries is extremely dangerous.

What are snake berries?

Mock strawberry (Potentilla indica): This plant, which has an alternative scientific name of Duchesnea indica, is known by the common names snake berry and snake strawberry. The berries are similar in size and appearance to wild strawberries, with serrated leaves and yellow flowers.

What do pokeweed berries taste like?

Quote from video: Anything.

Are pokeweed berries safe to eat?

The entire plant is poisonous causing a variety of symptoms, including death in rare cases. The berries are especially poisonous. Young leaves and stems when properly cooked are edible and provide a good source of protein, fat and carbohydrate.

What happens if you touch pokeweed?

Pokeweed can cause nausea, vomiting, cramping, stomach pain, diarrhea, low blood pressure, difficulty controlling urination (incontinence), thirst, and other serious side effects. When applied to the skin: Pokeweed is LIKELY UNSAFE. Don’t touch pokeweed with your bare hands.