Before there were supermarkets or farmer's markets, people foraged for food. Wild berry identification is a wonderful skill that can take you back to your roots. It's fun to enjoy the sweet taste of freshly picked berries while hiking or even while foraging in your backyard. In a survival situation, the ability to identify berries could mean the difference between life and death.
Wild Berry Identification Chart
While many wild berries are edible and all appear tempting, they are not created equal. Some are poisonous or contain properties that make you sick, so it's important to know which ones to avoid.
The table below can help you learn about berries that grow wild in the United States. The chart is four pages in length with images, descriptions, and what you should know about the berries themselves. Some of the information in this table was adapted from, A Pocket Naturalist Guide to Edible Wild Plants: An Introduction to Familiar North American Species.
If you need help downloading the printable, check out these helpful tips.
Tips for Foraging
- Never eat a berry unless you are completely sure it's edible.
- If you see a bird eating a wild berry, don't assume that berry is safe to eat. Birds eat many wild berries that are toxic to humans.
- If you're just learning how to identify wild berries, always carry a field guide with color photographs to help you safely identify berries.
- Avoid foraging for berries in locations that have been sprayed with pesticides or near heavily-polluted rivers, roadways, or industrial areas.
- Children are especially susceptible to the temptation of eating wild berries, so it's important to teach them to identify berries commonly found in your yard or local area -- especially those that are poisonous.
- Summer and fall are the best times to find ripe berries, ripe berries are easier to identify.
- Before foraging for berries in any area, be sure it's legal.
- Many state parks offer foraging classes. Contact your local state park to see what they offer.
- Your local university, botany, or horticulture group may offer foraging field trips to help you learn to identify wild berries and other edible plants.
The Joy of Foraging
If you love the outdoors, you'll love learning to identify wild berries. Foraging for berries is a wonderful family activity that helps foster an appreciation of nature. When you know what to look for, and take your time to carefully study each berry plant, you'll be able to enjoy a safe and rewarding wild berry picking experience.