Berries

by Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

Many birds and other animals such as foxes depend on berries as food sources, especially in the winter when other food options are limited. The valley has a wide variety of plants that produce berries, some of which are edible by people but many of which range from mildly to severely toxic if eaten. DO NOT consume any berries unless you are completely confident of whether or not they are safe for human consumption.

Here are a few images of berries from around the valley. (Photos by Skip Via.)

Oregon grape. Much beloved by foxes and deer and edible by humans, but not particularly good. Some folks gather them to make jam, but it takes a lot of sugar.
Fairy bells just beginning to ripen
Ripe fairy bells
Mountain ash, a favorite of waxwings.
False Solomon’s seal berries just beginning to ripen
Ripe false Solomon’s seal
European bittersweet. Mildly toxic to humans.
Kinnickinnic
Rose hips beginning to ripen
Ripe rose hips. Dried rose hips make a delicious fruity tea high in vitamin C and can be made into jam.
This less common berry goes by several names: bearberry, bearberry honeysuckle, bracted honeysuckle, and several others. The berries can be toxic. What appears to be a red flower is actually a specialized leaf called a bract.
Snowberries. Mildly toxic to humans. Some indigenous peoples felt that these were the preferred food of the dead, or that they represented dead ancestors.
Juniper berries. (Of course they’re juniper berries. It’s a juniper bush.)
Baneberries. HIGHLY TOXIC and DEADLY. They are not common in the valley, but you may encounter them in wetter areas of the valley. The berries are easy to recognize as they grow on stalks that point up. It’s posted here as a warning to NEVER even touch them.

Also see Birds and Berries on this site.

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