what type of berry is this?

Asked August 8, 2017, 9:28 PM EDT

just moved into lower Heidelberg township and the existing garden bed is exploding with tiny black berries, 5 to a stem. After contacting previous owner, they said they had never planted any berries. They are delicious. Maybe in the Black Currant or Justa berry family, but the leaves and flowers don't match up.

Berks County Pennsylvania

3 Responses

Please do not eat any more of these berries! The plant is in the nightshade family. Some nightshades are good for human consumption; tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, tomatillos, and eggplant. There are also some berries: goji, garden huckleberries, ground cherries and cape gooseberries, but not normal gooseberries nor blueberries.

All of the above foods are tasty, but I cannot recommend you eat the the ones found in your yard, which were likely brought there by a bird. You may want to take a sample of it, in a baggie, to your county agent.

While I cannot say exactly which one you have, it strongly resembles the purple nightshade that grows in my yard. I am basing my opinion on the leaf shape and berry description. I have never tasted the berries, but according to one source, whose description is similar to what you have posted: "Deadly nightshade berries pose the greatest danger to children, as they are attractive and are deceptively sweet at first bite. Yet just two berries can kill a child who eats them, and it takes only 10 or 20 to kill an adult. Likewise, consuming even a single leaf can prove fatal to humans."

Another source says"Its deadly character is due to the presence of an alkaloid, Atropine, 1/10 grain of which swallowed by a man has occasioned symptoms of poisoning. As every part of the plant is extremely poisonous, neither leaves, berries, nor root should be handled if there are any cuts or abrasions on the hands. The root is the most poisonous, the leaves and flowers less so, and the berries, except to children, least of all. It is said that an adult may eat two or three berries without injury, but dangerous symptoms appear if more are taken... cats and dogs are very susceptible to the poison."

They do not to affect birds, and my bumble bees love the flowers. They are difficult to eradicate, I pull everyone I find, being careful to pick up any berries that fall. I wear gloves when doing so. Getting rid of the berries which will seed new plants is very important. After puling, if the plant come back, apply a herbicide. It is more efficient to apply it to a smaller plant that is making a "comeback" from your weeding. Go for a broad leaf variety, and check the label to see if it works on nightshade. It may take you a few years to get it under control, but do not give up. Eventually you will win.

Thank you for your question. It was a great opportunity for me to review the nightshade family.

my little flowers are white. I'm thinking black nightshade. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

Thank you. I think you are correct, but it will still be a good idea to take it to your county extension office for confirmation. Black nightshade is not as poisonous as the purple nightshade, but still can make you sick. It has been used in certain medicines, so it is an interesting plant. Thank you for the followup and the picture. I really loved the challenge of identifying this plant. Please let me know what your local experts think. Thank you.