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Last Updated On December 14, 2020

Snake Berries: Are They Safe to Eat?


A snake berry doesn’t refer to one specific type of berry. Instead, it relates to multiple different berries across different regions. What can be considered a snake berry and are they edible?

When you come across berries in the wild, it is always a good idea to leave them alone unless you know that the berry is not poisonous. This will keep you and everyone around you from ingesting something that can be potentially harmful.

We’re going to look at five of the most common snake berries. Most of them are poisonous and not edible, but others can be eaten.

What is a snake berry? How can you identify what it looks like? How can you be sure if the berry is poisonous or not? Let’s talk about the term snake berry, what they are, and if they are edible.

What Are Snake Berries?

Flowering wild snake berries indian mockberry

Snake berries refer to several species of berry on plants that can be dangerous, so they aren’t considered edible. Most of them are poisonous, but not all of them will kill you if you eat them. Many of them will make you sick, though.

Sometimes, snake berries can also have medicinal use. The non-poisonous fruits are often used for food, as well. However, it is vital to have accurate information before eating any berry you find in the wild.

Do Snake Berries Attract Snakes?

Snakes are carnivorous, so they don’t eat any berries at all. Snake berries are not related to snakes at all. Luckily, this means that snake berry plants do not attract snakes very often. If you like snake berry plants and think you might want to get one, you do not need to worry about it bringing snakes into your yard.

How Can I Identify a Snake Berry?

Leaf not ripened snake berries indian mockberry

Snake berries get their name not only for their ability to be edible or poisonous but also because of how they grow. You will find these plants spreading their leaves out in a pattern that resembles a snake moving across the ground.

Not every plant that contains snake berries will look the same because they all have unique characteristics from each other and do not look alike.

One thing to keep in mind when trying to determine if the fruit of a plant is a snake berry is, the brighter the color, the more likely it is to be poisonous.

Potentilla Indica

Potentilla Indica, or Duchesnea Indica, is commonly known as a snake strawberry, meaning false strawberry. This plant’s berry looks incredibly similar to a regular strawberry, and the plant even has leaves that look like strawberry plants.

Scientifically known as potentilla Indica, this plant originated in Asia. The plant is beautiful, as it is covered in red berries, green leaves, and yellow flowers.

The berries on these plants are luckily not poisonous so they can be eaten. However, people pass up eating this fake strawberry because it doesn’t have much of a taste and is not sweet. The flavor is not tasty at all.

Medicinal Benefits

The type of fruit known as snake berries on this plant provides medicinal functions such as anti-inflammation, anti-fungus, antiseptic, anticoagulant, and cancer treatment.

The anticoagulant function works as a blood thinner to affect the cardiovascular system and smooth muscles.

The antiseptic function is a natural way to treat disorders of the skin like eczema and heal wounds and insect bites. This plant can also help snake bites (we suggest seeking emergency medical attention first before trying any natural remedy).

The anti-inflammation function may help soothe a sore throat and pain from tonsillitis. It can also reduce the swelling of the skin.

How is it Used?

When it comes to the ways of folk medicine, these snake berries are cooked and ingested. The leaves are boiled with rock sugar; then, the liquid is drunk. Since the fruit, flowers, leaves, and berries are all edible, side effects are minimal with this method.

Another method that is commonly used for external use is the mashing of the fruit. The mashed fruit is then used as a paste and may be applied to insect bites, snake bites, and other skin conditions.

Solanum Dulcamara

This plant is also known for holding snake berries, and it is also highly poisonous. It is also known by more than one name. Some other common names for this plant include snake berry, climbing nightshade, violet bloom, scarlet berry, and more.

Solanum Dulcamara also has several characteristics that closely resemble strawberry plants. The berries are red and look yummy to eat. However, they definitely should not be eaten because they contain a poison called solanine. They also have an incredibly bittersweet taste that you cannot get out of your mouth.

Solanine can cause nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, paralysis, even death in severe cases. This plant is said to produce poisonous berries to kill insects that might eat the berries. This effectively keeps the bugs away.

Actaea Rubra

While Actaea Rubra is the scientific name of this plant, it is also commonly referred to as snake berry, red baneberry, and cohosh. This plant is usually large, with small white flowers, green leaves, and a pretty red berry. The entire plant, including the berries, is poisonous.

These plants grow very slowly, so they are not very differentiated. Animals rarely eat them, and they typically are harmless to birds. Since the plant grows in the shade, birds are their primary source of disbursement because the seeds get stuck to them and fall off in other locations.

Even though these snake berries are poisonous, there have been no illnesses or deaths; you would still want to avoid eating them because they have an awful taste. This berry can affect the nervous system, especially in children. The poison can also cause some nausea, tiredness, and stomachache.

Clintonia Borealis

Besides the scientific name, this plant is also known as snake berry, straw lily, corn lily, yellow bead lily, and many more. This plant originates in North America, and the berries are mildly toxic.

This plant’s berries are small and blue, which doesn’t match the names it has been given. There is also a form of this plant that has white berries. The plant stands only a few inches tall. Since the berries are mildly toxic, eating too many of them can make you sick, but you won’t die.

One substance in these wild berries, called a rhizome, is even used for medicinal purposes. While the berries are technically edible, it is best to stay away from them when possible.

Maianthemum Dilatatum

This plant is commonly known by other names, False Lily of the Valley. You can find it in North America, most commonly on the Pacific Coast. They like to live in elevation up to 2,600 feet. This plant also thrives in partial shade or full shade with moist soil.

The leaves on this plant cover the ground and spread horizontally. Because of their ability to grow across the ground, they are a very popular choice among gardeners. These types of snake berries are edible and are not poisonous. The berries of this plant are also used for food occasionally.

If you found one of these plants to place in your garden, you can enjoy the sweet smell of the fruits. You should be careful, however, because this plant spreads like crazy underground. It can quickly become invasive, so be sure to plant it in a spot away from other plants.

Cautions

Instead of risking awful side effects, it is best not to eat any wild berries that you are unfamiliar with. Many snake berries are safe and edible, but others are found to be poisonous and can make you extremely sick.

If you eat a poisonous snake berry, it can cause death if too many are consumed. You need to be extremely confident about what kind of berry you will eat before you do. This information can save your life and the people around you in a situation where berries are all you can find to eat.

Conclusion

Close up macro of snake berries indian mockberry

Snake berries are multiple types of berries growing on different plants. It is important to remember that most berries referred to as snake berries are poisonous and should not be eaten.

While most are poisonous, it is also possible to use a few snake berries as medicine. They can help with inflammation, skin disorders, and bug or snake bites.

If you are out hiking and come across a berry that looks delicious, try to avoid it unless you know what type of berry you are dealing with. You don’t want to get sick, so you shouldn’t risk a poisonous berry.

Sources

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