Common Poisonous Berries

Those with young children may often be concerned that berries in the garden and in local surroundings will be a temptation and find themselves into young mouths. It is important to be aware of the dangers of berries and to teach your children not to touch or eat any berries without your consent. It is a good idea to inform yourself on issues of plant identification and teach your children how to recognise certain plants. That will keep them safe and also help ensure that they can become self-assured in the world of nature as they grow up. Here is a poisonous berries chart showing common garden, hedgerow and woodland plants that can be toxic or extremely toxic when ingested:

The yew is especially worth mentioning as the berries of the yew have sap with a slight sweetness but the seeds within are deadly – likely one of the most dangerous things you will come across in your garden or in your local area. Warn children and take care or the results could be catastrophic.
Black Bryony (Tamus communis)
This plant is common on the hedgerows and woodland edges. It has shiny and appealing scarlet berries that appear in clusters that twine together but those berries are highly toxic.
American Bittersweet/Bittersweet Nightshade (Celastrus scandens)
Although frequently used in wreaths and for other decorative purpose, all parts of this plant are in fact poisonous (not just the berries). Eating it can cause stomach upset and diarrhoea. It is, as the name suggests, in the nightshade family. This is the same family as potatoes and tomatoes and has a number of deadly, or at least dangerous, members. American Bittersweet is not the same plant as deadly nightshade (also known as Belladonna), but is still poisonous to animals and humans.
Spindle (Euonymous europaeus)
This tree or shrub is fairly easy to miss and may go unnoticed on the fringes of your garden until the fruits appear in the autumn. The flower-like seed pods are bright pinkish-red and eventually burst open to reveal a bright orange seed. Be warned. These eye-catching fruits are also highly toxic.
Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
Holly is familiar to most people though few stop to think about the toxicity of the berries. Berries only form on the female tree. While eating a few berries is likely to give children a serious stomach upset, if they eat more than twenty it can be fatal.
Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
The berries of all different kinds of ivy should be avoided. While it is extremely uncommon for humans to eat enough of these berries to be poisoned, berries can cause severe reactions in the mouth, on the tongue, lips and on surrounding skin and are highly toxic.
Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum)
This shrub-like plant likes to grow in damp hedgerows and in woodland. It is in the St. John's Wort family and though it is of use in herbal medicine, the berries are toxic and should most definitely not be consumed as a food stuff.

There are, of course, many other poisonous berries, including the nightshades that are mentioned in the article on poisonous garden plants. Other berries may not be toxic but they may be bitter and inedible. It should go without saying but it is important to teach children not to eat berries without your consent and to make sure you never try anything that you cannot be completely sure that you have identified correctly.

What to do if a child eats poisonous berries?

If the child hasn't swallowed all the berries in their mouth, remove all the unswallowed berries. If possible, keep a sample of the berries they've swallowed or take a photo of the berries and plant from which they came. This will assist medical staff in identifying exactly which berries they've eaten. In order to slow the movement of the poison around their system, keep the child as still and as calm as possible. Traditional wisdom is that you should get the child to throw up, but the reality is that you're unlikely to get them to vomit enough up to make a difference and it could panic the child. And the next thing to do is, obviously, seek medical help as soon as possible. If you have a local poisons hotline, give them a call first, otherwise seek out a doctor or hospital.
Please note this article doesn't constitute medical advice. Always check with your doctor.