Poisonous tree berries

A variety of trees, both cultivated and wild, produce poisonous berries. Those commonly found in gardens are most dangerous because children or pets may accidentally ingest them. Even berries that produce are mild symptoms can cause death if eaten in large enough quantities.


Holly plants are evergreen trees and shrubs. Their hard bright red berries can cause severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and drowsiness when eaten. As few as three berries can make a child seriously ill. In most cases, holly ingestion is not fatal, but in large enough quantities, symptoms may result in death.


Similar to a Christmas tree in appearance, the yew is an evergreen tree or shrub. It has soft red berries that have a hard green seed in the centre. It is the seed, not the berry itself, that when ingested can cause vomiting, dizziness, and abdominal pain. You may also experience changes in your heart rate, trouble breathing, and in some cases death may result.


A common Christmas evergreen that grows on a tree's bark, the mistletoe's whitish-pink berries are not dangerous in small quantities. Large amounts can cause stomach discomfort. Other parts of the mistletoe are far more dangerous causing problems with vision and convulsions.


Although some home remedies include elderberry and it's often made into preserves and wines, the unripe berries contain toxic compounds that can cause stomach irritation. Elderberry is a shrub commonly seen on the edges of wooded areas and along streams. In small amounts the elderberry shrub's berries typically cause minor illness, but in large quantities, they can be fatal.


An evergreen shrub often grown as an ornamental, jasmine grows flowers that range in colour from green to cream. Its berries are green when unripe and turn to black. All parts of this plant are toxic, but the berries are particularly dangerous. Eating jasmine berries can result in difficulty in breathing, sore or irritated nose and throat, sneezing, headache, dizziness and nausea. Some people report symptoms just from the plant's fragrance and eating the berries has been known to cause death.


The daphne plant, also called spurge laurel or lady laurel, is a small shrub that blooms early, before the leaves appear, with rose-purple flowers. All parts of this plant can be toxic, but the heaviest amounts of toxins are in the bark, sap and berries. Even if not swallowed, chewing these scarlet berries can cause severe burning in the mouth and throat. Ingesting the berries can result in stomach discomfort, headache, diarrhoea, convulsions, delirium, coma and, if medical treatment is not sought, death.

Red sage

Also called scarlet sage, red sage is a shrub with flowers of white, blue and all shades of red that bloom above the foliage. Its green berries may be fatal if ingested, affecting the lungs, kidneys and the heart and nervous system. It is commonly found in the warmer regions but may grow in any moderate climate.

Common box

A small evergreen tree with clumps of yellow flowers, the common box or buxus has pale green or brown berries. All parts of this tree are toxic, causing upset stomach and if the foliage contacts your skin, it can result in rash or irritation. Ingesting the berries of the common box tree is not typically fatal.

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About the Author

Renee Miller began writing professionally in 2008, contributing to websites and the "Community Press" newspaper. She is co-founder of On Fiction Writing, a website for writers. Miller holds a diploma in social services from Clarke College in Belleville, Ontario.