How To Identify Snake Berries

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Some snake berry varieties are edible and taste similar to strawberries, but others are toxic to humans. Learn about the various types of snake berries and how to identify snake berries that are safe to eat.


What Exactly Are Snake Berries?

Snake berries refer to several species of North American wild berry plants. The fruits produced by snake berry plants range from edible to toxic.

Snake berries may have gotten their name from the mythological idea of snakes being poisonous and deceptive. Some snake berry varieties have characteristics similar to strawberries, earning them the moniker "false berry," "false strawberry," or "mock strawberry."


What Is the Difference Between Snake Berries and Wild Strawberries?

Snake berries, particularly Potentilla indica, are frequently confused with wild strawberries by inexperienced foragers. However, there are visual distinctions. Snake berries have yellow flowers and reddish, toothed seeds that protrude from the flesh of the fruit. True strawberries have white flowers and seeds that are tightly packed.


Do Snake Berries Have Health Benefits?

The majority of snake berry plants are toxic, but common snake berries (Potentilla indica) are said to have some health benefits. Snake berries are used medicinally by indigenous cultures due to their anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, antifungal, and antiseptic properties.


5 Types of Snake Berries

The appearance and toxicity of snake berries vary. Snake berries come in the following varieties:

1. Mock strawberry (Potentilla indica): This plant, which also goes by the scientific name Duchesnea indica, is also known as snake berry and snake strawberry. The berries resemble wild strawberries in size and appearance, with serrated leaves and yellow flowers. While not poisonous, the berries are rather bland and unappealing.

2. Climbing nightshade (Solanum dulcamara): Other names for this plant include poison berry, bittersweet, fellenwort, violet bloom, and scarlet berry. The small, smooth-skinned red berries of this plant contain solanine, a poisonous compound.

3. Red baneberry (Actaea rubra): Green leaves and red berries distinguish red baneberry, also known as cohosh and chinaberry. The berries on this plant are smaller and smoother than those on wild strawberries. The toxic berries can cause nausea and stomach cramping, and their intensely unpleasant taste should deter anyone from eating more than one berry.

4. Straw lily (Clintonia borealis): This plant produces small blue berries that are difficult to confuse with wild strawberry plants. The fruit of this plant, also known as corn lily and yellow bead lily, is mildly toxic and unpleasant to eat.

5. False lily of the valley (Maianthemum dilatatum): This plant, also known as two-leaved Solomon's seal, is popular among gardeners as a ground cover. The small red berries are edible but not particularly tasty. They spread quickly and can become invasive due to the rhizomes from which they grow.

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