Ron Wilson

Ron Wilson

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Know Your Purple Berries - Carri Jagger

When I was taking my evening walk around our property I noticed three different plants with purple berries. The Silky Dogwood Cornus amomum berries were starting to turn purple, the Elderberries were also starting to turn purple, and the Pokeweed was just setting it’s berries but they hadn’t started to turn purple yet. After seeing all three plants, which grow in natural areas like old fence rows or along woods edges, starting to bear purplish fruit I thought that I would share pictures and descriptions of them.

Cornus amomum also known as Silky Dogwood is a native perennial shrub that can grow to be 10 – 15 feet tall. It grows well in moist sunny or part shaded areas. In late spring it gets clusters of small white flowers that later mature into clusters of purple drupes. Birds and other wild life are attracted to the fatty berries in the fall. In my research I did not find a definitive answer about whether or not humans could eat the silky dogwood berries. I always advise to err on the side of caution and pass something up if you are not sure when foraging.

Elderberries have been really popular as a “Super Food” the past several years. American elder is also a native perennial shrub that can reach heights between 3 – 13 feet tall. Elder also grows in moist sunny to shaded areas. The elder also has cluster of white flowers that bloom from early spring to mid-summer. The flowers later turn to clusters of purplish black drupes. The plant does contain toxins and if to many uncooked berries are eaten it could cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Therefore, if you want to consume the “super food” make sure you cook it first. Elder is also great for all kinds of wildlife. 

Lastly, Pokeweed which is also a native plant. I also observed that it was getting quite big in one of our fence rows and was starting to produce berries. They haven’t started to turn purple yet but when they do don’t mistake them for Silky Dogwood or elderberries because you will be sorry that you did, as all parts of the plant are poisonous. Pokeweed is an herbaceous perennial that can reach up to 10 feet tall and can sometimes resemble a tree or shrub. It produces whiteish green flowers in long narrow clusters resembling grapes. It then produces purple to black berries on these clusters later in the summer. Again, this is not a berry that you want to forage for as it can make you sick.


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