Blueberries are delicious and healthy purple berries that we all eat love. And it seems like you could never take them for any other fruit as they look so different from all the common fruits we eat.
But that’s until you see a shrub in the wild that has berries that look very much blueberries.
What berries look like blueberries? Huckleberries, bilberries, serviceberries, and deerberries look like blueberries and are safe to eat. Some of the poisonous berries that look like blueberries are nightshade berries, pokeberries, and Virginia creeper berries.
This article is a guide to blueberries and their lookalikes, which ones are safe to eat, and which ones you should never come close to.
Continue reading to learn how to identify blueberry shrubs, what happens if you eat toxic berries, and more.
What Are Blueberries?
Blueberries are wildly popular blue or purple fruits that people love to eat as a topping for pancakes, waffles, and oatmeal, as well as blended with other fruits and vegetables to make tasty and nutritious smoothies.
Sweet with mild acidity, these berries are also good for baking.
While blueberries, both raw and cooked, have many uses, it is equally as good to eat a handful of these berries as is. This is because blueberries are a true superfood. Here are some health benefits these tiny but mighty berries have.
- Blueberries are a powerful source of antioxidants
- They are rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, K, manganese, and potassium
- Blueberries may help prevent cancer and heart diseases.
- Slowing down the brain’s aging process, blueberries are good for memory
- Blueberries can help regulate blood sugar and reduce high blood pressure
How To Identify Blueberries
Blueberries are a group of perennial flowering plants. They belong to the genus Vaccinium. You may come across numerous blueberry species.
But the major blueberry varieties are lowbush, northern highbush, southern highbush, half-high, and rabbiteye blueberries.
Lowbush blueberries are wild blueberries. Canada is the biggest producer of lowbush blueberries. Highbush blueberries, on the other hand, are more common in the US.
The popularity of highbush blueberries has to do with their resistance to diseases. Highbush blueberries are the cultivated species of blueberries and are larger in size.
Highbush blueberry cultivars are also self-fertile which is another plus for blueberry manufacturers.
So, blueberries come in a range of varieties. Coming across blueberries in nature would be an amazing experience.
But how do you know for sure that the berries you have found are blueberries and you can safely eat them? This is when you feel the need to learn how to identify blueberries.
Do Blueberries Grow On Trees Or Bushes?
First off, it is important to know where blueberries grow.
Blueberries grow on bushes. If you come across blue or purple berries that look like blueberries but grow on trees, know that they are not blueberries. And don’t risk eating them if you are not sure what those fruits are.
With this said, there is the Japanese blueberry tree that grows to be as high as 60 feet and has blue-colored berries that may look similar to blueberries. But these berries are not fruits and this blueberry tree is an ornamental evergreen.
Most berries grow on bushes. There aren’t many berry varieties that grow on trees. But speaking of blueberries, keep in mind that all edible blueberries grow on bushes.
How To Recognize Blueberry Bushes
So, blueberries grow on bushes. How do you identify blueberry shrubs? If you are not an expert, here are the three basic characteristics of blueberry shrubs to help you identify edible blueberries.
- Appearance. First off, inspect the growth habit of the blueberry shrub. In general, blueberry shrubs are between 6 to 10 inches tall. Pay attention to where the shoots grow. In the case of blueberry bushes, the canes grow right from the soil. The canes are also smooth and don’t have any thorns.
- Leaves. When it comes to leaves, they should be green or green with a blue hue, with a glossy finish. After summer, blueberry leaves usually take on red hues. As for the shape of the leaves, blueberry leaves are ovate.
- Fruit and flowers. If you have come across a shrub that you think is a blueberry shrub in spring or summer, check to see if there are any flowers or fruits on it. Blueberry flowers appear in clusters. You may see 5 to 10 flower white flowers in a cluster. After the flowers fade, green buds appear. They gradually grow into blue or purple berries. So, from early summer until late fall you may still be able to see the berries on the bush which makes it easier to identify blueberry shrubs.
While the abovementioned characteristics can help you identify blueberry bushes, we recommend you never eat berries if you are not sure what they are.
Are Berries That Look Like Blueberries Safe To Eat?
There are many berries in nature that look like blueberries. Some of them are delicious and completely safe to eat.
However, there are also berries that may look appetizing and very similar to blueberries but are totally poisonous.
This is why it is important to know how to identify blueberries, and what are some toxic blueberry lookalikes you should never try to eat.
What Happens If You Eat Poisonous Berries?
What will happen to you after you have eaten poisonous berries depends on two things—what berries you have eaten and how many of them you have eaten.
Eating poisonous berries may result in nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and upset stomach, burning sensation in the mouth or throat, and a fever.
The word poisonous is rather intimidating and can make you think that one poisonous berry can be fatal.
While we strongly recommend that you never eat berries that you are not familiar with, it is relieving to know one inedible berry won’t kill you.
It can make you feel bad but it won’t have a fatal impact. Poisonous berries may have a fatal impact if you eat a few of them or don’t reach out for help immediately.
7 Berries That Look Like Blueberries
If you love blueberries and are ready to eat them on any occasion, then this list of the 7 blueberry lookalikes is for you.
Continue reading to learn more about some edible berries that look like blueberries and what berries you shouldn’t get close to in your search for blueberries out in nature.
Huckleberries share quite a few similarities with blueberries.
Similar to blueberries, huckleberries are round and may have a blue or purple color though they can also be red and black.
Blueberries and huckleberries even taste similar, with huckleberries being a little tarter than blueberries.
Huckleberries grow on shrubs that grow 2-3 feet high. In rare cases, huckleberry bushes may grow 10 feet tall.
Unlike blueberries that are widely available and that you can get in any supermarket, huckleberries can only be met in the wild.
Bilberries are another type of berries that look very much like blueberries.
In fact, bilberries look so much like blueberries that people often call them European blueberries.
Bilberries belong to the same plant family as blueberries and have a nutritional value similar to blueberries. Wild bilberries though are higher in vitamin C, K, and manganese than regular blueberries.
Almost black with a hint of blue, bilberries grow on low-growing bushes. Bilberries are smaller than blueberries but are very delicious. They are sweeter than blueberries, with tangy and fruity notes.
Serviceberries are larger than blueberries. Unripe serviceberries are green.
Then the berries turn red and deep purple which makes it easy to take them for blueberries.
Unlike blueberries, serviceberries may grow not only on shrubs but also on trees. It all depends on the cultivar.
Serviceberries are similar to blueberries in shape and size. The flavor of serviceberries seems to be a mix of blueberries and almonds as the flesh has a mild blueberry flavor while the seeds taste like almonds .
Deerberries are blue-colored berries that grow on globular-shaped shrubs that can grow from 6-12 feet high.
An easy way to distinguish deerberry bushes from blueberry bushes is by inspecting the shape of the leaves.
Compared to the ovate shape of blueberry leaves, deerberry leaves are sharper. Also, unlike blueberry leaves, deerberry leaves are not glossy.
Fully ripe deerberries have a dark black-blue color. But deerberries don’t taste as good as blueberries. Their flavor is described to be tart, bitter, and sour.
Poisonous Berries That Look Like Blueberries
Now that you have learned what berries look like blueberries and are safe for consumption, it’s time to get to know the dangerous lookalikes of our favorite purple berries.
5. Nightshade Berries
Nightshade berries, also known as Solanum nigrum, are a dangerous blueberry lookalike. These berries grow in clusters and look very juicy.
If you are unaware of the deadly berries you may come across in the wild, these dark purple berries may look too attractive for you to not pick them and eat them.
However, you should be careful with nightshade berries. There are several varieties of nightshade berries. While some of them are edible and taste good, others may result in poisoning.
Fully ripe nightshade berries may be harmless. However, the green unripe berries and the plant itself are toxic. If you eat them, you may suffer from such symptoms as nausea, headache, and an upset stomach.
So, unless you are an expert, you shouldn’t eat any nightshade berries. An easy way to tell blueberries and nightshade berries apart is the crown on blueberries which nightshade berries don’t have.
Pokeberries appear on pokeweed plants. You may take pokeberries for blueberries because of their color and the size of the berries.
Due to the way they grow, pokeberry clusters may also look like grapes to children.
However, if you take a closer look at these berries, you will notice that they grow differently from blueberries.
If you see red stems on which the berries are attached, don’t ever eat them.
Eating pokeberries may result in serious health issues.
Depending on how many pokeberries a person eats, these dangerous blueberry lookalikes may cause vomiting, nausea, cramps, stomach issues, and low blood pressure.
Green unripe pokeberries are even more poisonous than ripe pokeberries.
7. Virginia Creeper
The berries of Virginia creeper look similar to blueberries. But unlike blueberries, Virginia creeper berries should never be consumed.
Virginia creeper is a vine while blueberries grow on bushes. If you know how blueberries grow, you won’t take Virginia creeper berries for blueberries.
But they do look alike. In late summer and fall, Virginia creeper berries take on a blueish-black color which makes them resemble blueberries.
These berries are toxic to humans due to the high amount of oxalic acid in them. Exposure to oxalic acid may cause nausea, dizziness, upset stomach, and headaches.
Eating Virginia creeper berries may even be fatal. Touching the Virginia creeper plant may cause rash and redness on the skin.
How Can You Tell If Berries Are Poisonous?
As you can see, some berries do look like blueberries but they can be poisonous. You can certainly learn about the characteristics of your favorite berries, including blueberries so that you don’t mistake them for inedible berries.
But as there is a myriad of berry varieties you may come across in the wild, here are some helpful tips you can use when you are trying to decide for yourself whether the berries are poisonous or not.
Tips For Identifying Poisonous Berries
- First and foremost, we recommend that you never pick and eat wild berries if you are not sure that they are edible.
- Secondly, know that most white and yellow berries are poisonous. While blueberries may be light yellow or white at their early stages of ripening, avoid eating berries of these colors.
- Next, study the plant. Look for the characteristics that you are sure of and that can help you identify edible berries. Most edible berries grow in clusters. It would also be helpful to consider the season.
- Reach out to an expert. If you know someone who has profound knowledge of plants and can easily tell the difference between edible and inedible berries, reach out to them. Describe the plant or send them the picture of the bush and you will get an answer way more quickly than if you tried to identify the plant yourself.
- Another thing you can do to identify inedible berries is to taste them. Taste them, but don’t swallow them.
If you have come across berries that look a lot like berries you know are edible, taste one to see if it’s good and has a familiar flavor.
Chew the berry to feel the flavor but don’t swallow it. Inedible berries are only dangerous if you swallow them.
If the berries taste bitter, or good but with an unpleasant aftertaste, don’t eat them. If you are experiencing an unfamiliar but good flavor, err on the safe side, and don’t eat the berries anyway.
What To Do If You Have Eaten Poisonous Berries
As soon as you realize that you are eating a poisonous berry, spit out what you have in your mouth. Secondly, reach out for professional help. Call the poison control center to get expert help.
It would be helpful to take a sample from the berries you have eaten and take it with you to the hospital.
This way the doctors will know better what they are dealing with and you will get proper treatment to ease the symptoms of berry poisoning.
If you’re looking for a way to use blueberries in your next recipe, here’s a great video from the folks over at Tasty!
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