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Curtis Nemechek

How to identify poisonous plants and berries in the wild?

How to identify poisonous plants and berries in the wild?

While you wander in the wild, you may come across several plants and berries that tempt you to eat them. They might be tasty looking, but some are not as they seem. Some berries and plants are poisonous, which can cause severe health issues in humans. So, knowing which ones are good and which ones are not essential.

You need to know several factors to identify edible berries because some can be lethal if consumed.

Everything you need to know to identify poisonous plants and berries in the wild.

Read on for tips and tricks for identifying plants and berries to avoid eating while trekking or surviving in the wild. 

1.Look for spines, spikes, and milky sap.

Plants and fruits use different self-defense mechanisms; the most common ones to look for are physical ones. The plants you see spikes, spines, or small pointy hairs use these to keep animals away from them.

That's why these are common in flowers like roses, etc. Another thing that can help you identify unsafe plants and berries is a milky sap. It appears when you cut a branch off that plant. As soon as you cut, the plant and the branch will start dripping a milky sap. It is also an identification that the plant is not good. However, this sap may not always be milky, as it can be of other odd colors.

2. Stay away from certain colors.

In the wild, you may find berries of all colors. From blue to black and purple, from yellow to orange and red. There will be all colors, some of which may be seen as odd and unique. The color of berries says a lot about them being edible or not.

For instance, black, blue, and purple berries are usually safe to eat, and only a few in these colors are unsafe. When it comes to orange and red berries, there is a 50-50 chance of these being edible. However, when it comes to green, white, or yellow colors, 90% of these are not safe to eat. All that being said, going into the wild equipped with the knowledge of what black and blue berries are safe can help you get quick nourishment. Important research includes the foliage on the plant in-which the berries grow and the types of berries that grow in the region you are trekking.

3. Do not consume those with a bitter smell.

Berries have a sweet and fruity smell. So, when you are in the wild, you may find some berries with a strong, bitter, and unpleasant smell. Eating those berries may not be the best idea.

After identifying the color of the berries, the smell can tell you a lot about their safety. You can try blackberries, raspberries, and even blueberries to compare the smell. Their smell will be pleasant and familiar, while some wild berries may not smell as good and should be avoided.

4. Do thorough testing on the forearm and mouth before consuming

If the berry seems good in the physical examination, it is time that you test it. For testing, you will not directly eat a berry. Instead, smash it and put the juice on your forearm. You will need to wait for at least 5 minutes. If you feel any irritation, then skip it; otherwise, proceed.

Next, take the juice and put it on your lips. Wait; if it still passes, you may put some juice on your gums. A berry that passes still needs to go through a final test. Put one in your mouth and chew it without swallowing any juice. Do this for 10-15 minutes, and if you don't face any irritation or adverse reaction, then that berry will be safe to eat.

5. Eat little and then wait for at least 20 minutes to see any reaction

When you find out a plant or berry is safe to eat, you cannot start eating as many as you find right away. Instead, begin with one or two berries and eat them. Wait for 20 minutes and see for any reaction. Not finding any adverse reaction means that the berry is safe to eat.

However, it will still be a good idea to eat it slowly in small portions as long as you are not sure about it being completely safe. Eating slowly and less means you won't quickly get a lot of toxins in your body.

6. Keep your guide with you and learn about the harmful plants and berries

Several guidebooks can tell you a lot about plants and berries. Some even have pictures or illustrations of the harmful ones you need to avoid. If you are out in the wild for some adventure, keep that guide with you as you can study every plant and berry that you find, and, in this way, you will be sure about the safe ones.

7. Learn the signs to skip any plant or berry from your body

Your body tells you a lot about poisoning from consuming plants and berries. There will be digestive or nervous issues within a few hours after consuming the harmful plants and berries. These include:

  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Blurred vision

If you face any of these signs, it would be a good option to skip eating from that plant again.

8. Skip if you have any doubts

If you have to consume wild plants, fruits, or berries, there could be either of these 2 circumstances:

  • You are consuming them to get the taste and to explore wild plants
  • You are in a survival situation where nutrition is essential

In either of these cases, the best idea would be to skip that plant or berry and look for a different one. These will not be worth risking your health for. Only in the situation where you won't find anything else to eat could you risk your health and life for the calories you will get from berries.

Final Verdict:

Not all plants and berries are good when consumed because many plants use their berries as a self-defense mechanism. Such berries can cause issues ranging from dizziness to nausea; some can even be lethal.

However, you can always be safe if you know how to identify the poisonous ones. So, keep track of the plants, fruits, and berries around you whenever you go in the wild by using the methods above. This way, you may eat a new wild berry that you may never have tried.


Image by Pawel Grzegorz from Pixabay 

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