Green leaves are commonplace on most trees, but red berries among the leafy foliage are a welcome burst of unexpected colour. Most trees that sport clusters of ruby-coloured berries do not offer an edible bounty, but the colourful sprigs brighten up the otherwise simple greenery of the tree. A variety of both deciduous leafy trees and needle-covered evergreens offer red berries in addition to their standard fare.
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Holly includes over 600 species of trees and shrubs, and the plants are known for their waxy, toxic red berries. Some varieties of holly are low-growing shrubs that are used as border plants or even indoor potted plants, but other species can grow into impressively tall trees. The English holly sports white flowers in the spring, and the flowers give way to the distinctive red berries as colder weather approaches. American holly trees are distinguished from European hollies because they feature rounded leaves rather than spiny leaves. In ideal growing conditions, both English and American holly trees can reach heights up to 50 feet, though they are more commonly kept to around 30 feet.
Yew trees are unique conifers because instead of the cones that define other conifers, the female yew trees offer clusters of red berries. All 400 cultivars of yew trees bear small red berries that feature a distinctive hollow centre. The berries themselves are sweet tasting and nontoxic, but the berries also contain seeds that are poisonous to humans. Birds are able to eat the berries because their stomachs do not effectively break down the seeds to release the toxic alkaloid within.
Dogwoods include at least 30 different species of deciduous flowering trees. The woody flowering trees are common fixtures in public parks and gardens because of their showy spring flowers. After the petals have wilted and as winter weather arrives, some varieties of dogwood trees present tight clusters of waxy red berries. Though some species offer edible berries, other varieties, including the Swida subgenus produce berries that are toxic to humans, so avoid eating the berries unless you are positive of the precise dogwood variety.
Though many trees feature berries that are mildly toxic to humans, some trees produce berries that can be safely eaten. Idesia trees are deciduous trees that offer hanging clusters of small red berries that are tart, but safe to eat or include in cooking. The elderberry tree is notorious for its toxic bark, wood and leaves, but the ripe red berries of some varieties of elderberry are safe to eat; teas and syrups derived from the berries are also available to consumers.
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