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Are Snake Berries Poisonous?

When you come across a ripe, juicy berry in the wild, it might be tempting to try a taste. However, leaving wild plants alone is always better, especially if it’s an unfamiliar species. Are snake berries edible, or are they toxic to humans? This article delves deep into the world of snake berries, shedding light on their edibility, appearance, and potential dangers.

Key Takeaways:

  • Most snake berries are toxic and should not be consumed.
  • Only a few species of snake berries are edible.
  • Snake berries contain a poison known as solanine, which can cause symptoms similar to a snake’s venom.
  • Identifying and differentiating between the various types of snake berries is essential.


Snake berries in the wild

What Are Snake Berries?

Snake berries can be a challenge to identify. The fruit doesn’t come from a single species of plant. Instead, there are a variety of different snake berries that you may see depending on your location and the time of year.

The one thing that most snake berries have in common is their toxicity. They contain a poison known as solanine, commonly found in nightshade plants such as potatoes and tomatoes.

Snake berries get their name in part because berries can cause symptoms similar to a snake’s venom. This includes reactions ranging from nausea and vomiting to paralysis and even death.

The name also comes from the fact that most snake berry species spread across the ground as they grow. Vines can be somewhat snakelike, often in a curved pattern resembling a moving snake.

Hobo burn medicine: Snake Berry!

What Do Snake Berries Look Like?

Snake berries can come from different species of plants and can vary in appearance. Berries are typically small and juicy. Some have smooth, firm skin, while others have a rough, seeded texture on the outside. They can be either round or oval, and colors can range from black and purple to bright red.

Many compare snake berries to more common grocery store varieties like strawberries or lingonberries. Their striking resemblance to more common fruit can make them all the more dangerous. Pets, children, and adults can easily mistake snake berries for their favorite fruity treat.

Everyday Emily Kay’s perspective on snake berries

The Different Types of Snake Berries

Snake berries can vary widely in appearance, so it’s a good idea to be familiar with the different varieties. There are five main types of snake berry bushes that grow wild in North America. 

Potentilla Indica

This plant is one of the most common and well-known types of snake berry bush. It is also known as the “false strawberry” due to the berry’s resemblance to a wild strawberry. The plant originates from Asia but is now found throughout North America.

This type of snakeberry is round, red, and has a rough seeded texture. It is one of the few types of snake berries that are edible. However, the taste is often described as sour or bitter instead of sweet and juicy. Most people use this berry purely for medicinal purposes instead of cooking or baking.


Solanum Dulcamara

This type of snake berry is also small and red, but the skin is smooth and firm instead of soft and seeded. Clusters of berries may include both ripe, bright red berries and unripe green fruits. 

Solanum dulcamara originates from Asia and Europe, though it is now common in colder areas of North America. It is one of the most toxic types of snake berry and is responsible for several accidental deaths. 

Actaea Rubra

This type of snake berry looks similar to Solanum dulcamara, but the fruit can vary from snowy white to deep crimson. The berries grow in clusters at the tips of branches.

Ingesting berries from the Actaea rubra bush will likely lead to food poisoning symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. However, they are less toxic than other snake berry species. Deaths related to this plant are uncommon.

Are Snake Berries Poisonous?

Almost all varieties of snake berries are poisonous. They contain solanine, a toxic compound found in certain fruiting plants. Eating even a tiny amount can lead to complications such as nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms of food poisoning.

Eating a larger amount of snake berries may result in more serious symptoms. Some species may also have more potent effects than others. Severe reactions to snake berries can include paralysis, hallucinations, and death.

If you or someone you know accidentally ingests snake berries, they may need medical attention. If you notice swelling, difficulty breathing, or a loss of motor control, call 911 or visit the closest emergency room.

The Medicinal Uses of Snake Berries

While most snake berries are known for their toxicity, some varieties have been used for medicinal purposes. Indigenous communities have utilized certain types of snake berries for their healing properties.

Maianthemum Dilatatum

This variety, also known as the “false lily of the valley” or the “two-leaved Solomon’s seal,” is one of the few snake berries that are both edible and medicinal. This plant’s berries, leaves, and roots have been used in traditional medicine for various ailments.

Snake berries close-up

Potentilla Indica

While the berries of this plant are often described as sour or bitter, they have been used for medicinal purposes. Some believe they can help with digestive issues, while others use them for their anti-inflammatory properties.

The medicinal properties of snake berries

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are all snake berries poisonous?

While most snake berries are toxic, a few varieties are edible. However, it’s essential to identify them before consumption correctly.

2. How can I differentiate between edible and toxic snake berries?

It’s challenging to differentiate between them based solely on appearance. It’s always safer to consume only wild berries if you know their edibility.

3. What should I do if I accidentally consume snake berries?

If you or someone you know ingests snake berries, seek medical attention immediately, mainly if symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or difficulty breathing occur.

4. Can animals eat snake berries?

Most animals avoid snake berries due to their bitter taste. However, some birds and animals might consume them without apparent harm. It’s essential to keep pets away from these berries.

External Resources

For those interested in diving deeper into the world of snake berries and their properties, here are some valuable resources:

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