By Julie Christensen
Perhaps you’ve found some wild berries near your property and you want to identify them. Or, you tasted a delicious berry in a restaurant and you’re not sure of its identity. Fortunately, the Internet offers vast listings of berries, complete with photos.
Before you begin your search, though, it’s helpful to have a sample (or photos) of not only the berry, but the leaves and stems. Some poisonous berries, such as pokeberries, may look a lot like edible berries. The only way to know for certain is to examine not only the fruit, but the other parts of the plant as well.
When identifying berries, think about where the plant grows. Is it in full sun or partial shade? Is it growing in a dry area or moist, rich soil? All these factors are clues to identifying a specific plant. Then, visit some of the resources below to positively identify your mystery berry.
- Fine Gardening: Plant Guide. From raspberries to serviceberries, Fine Gardening’s plant guide is the place to go to identify almost any plant on the planet.
- University of Wyoming: Wild Berries and Other Wild Fruit. This article includes full-color photos of many wild fruits and berries, as well as recipes for jams, jellies and sauces.
- Raintree Nursery: Berries. This online nursery features over 200 listings for berries. Each listing includes a full-color photo and written description.
- Nourse: The Best Berry Plants Since 1932. Nourse carries raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, elderberries, gooseberries and more.
- Better Homes and Gardens: Plant Encyclopedia. This site offers comprehensive listings with photos for many berries, including serviceberries and other native plants.
- How Stuff Works: Are All Wild Berries Poisonous? This site includes a few photos along with advice on identifying native berries.
- Wild Food School: Berried…or Buried? This excellent site offers full-color photos and descriptions of numerous edible and toxic wild berries.
- Apple App Store: Wild Berries & Herbs HD. Yes, there’s even an app for berry identification. Download this one to your iPhone and have it handy wherever you travel.
Many nurseries now offer online versions of their catalogs, but there’s still nothing quite like thumbing through a printed catalog. Here are a few to try:
- Burpee. Request a catalog for this old-time favorite. They offer common berry plants.
- Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Co. Like Burpees, Gurney’s has been around forever. Request a catalog here.
- Stark Brothers. Stark Brothers have been selling berries and seeds since 1816. Request a catalog or view their berries online.
Books and Field Guides
Visit a local library or bookstore to find books on berries. Many books offer recipes and gardening tips, as well.
- Northwest Foraging: The Classic Guide to Edible Plants of the Pacific Northwest by Doug Benoliel. This comprehensive guide offers illustrations and descriptions of many wild berries.
- Wild Berries & Fruit Field Guide of Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, by Teresa Marrone offers photos and descriptions of plants you’ll encounter throughout the Midwest. Those living further north will appreciate her companion book, Wild Berries & Fruit field Guide of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.
- A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America by Lee Allen Peterson and Roger Tory Peterson. Grab this guide to identify not only wild berries, but many other edible plants.
- The Berry Grower’s Companion, by Barbara L. Bowling. This illustrated guide features commonly grown berries and offers helpful tips on growing, harvesting and using berries.
Still can’t find the answer to your berry question? Sometimes the best help is right around the corner. Visit a reputable nursery first. Nurseries often employ experts to help customers and answer questions. A clever neighbor with gardening experience may be able to help you. Finally, seek out the advice of a county extension office expert. These gardening experts are associated with the agricultural and horticultural departments of state universities. They’re gardening experts and usually have extensive knowledge about native plants growing in your area, as well.
When she’s not writing about gardening, food and canning, Julie Christensen enjoys spending time in her gardens, which includes perennials, vegetables and fruit trees. She’s written hundreds of gardening articles for the Gardening Channel, Garden Guides and San Francisco Gate, as well as several e-books.