Nature abounds with good things to eat for humans and animals. The wild areas of the United States are rife with shrubs, trees and vines that produce fruit. Fruiting wild vines are often vigorous and can take over cultivated areas. Wild blackberries are one of the most common plants in the western side of the states, while wild sarsparilla vines tangle along the southern states.
Vines of wild grapes with wide-veined leaves grow wild in eastern and central North America. There are many varieties of the vines with blue to blue-black berries. The sea grape is not a grape but produces clusters of white berries that cascade down just like grapes. The Himalayan blackberry is not native but grows wild as a vine in the Pacific Northwest. Greenbriar vine has berries that are good in jam and jelly and grows in the Southwest. Most edible wild berries grow on bushes.
Many plants produce fruits that are not palatable, but some can actually harm you. The cheery red berries of red nightshade affect the nervous system and can make the heart stop beating. The black nightshade is called deadly nightshade, but its form is more bush-like. Wild jasmine produces berries that are fatal, especially to children. English ivy is rampant in many parts of North America and its berries can cause nervous system and respiratory distress.
Wild Vines, Domesticated Vines
Honeysuckle is a common plant in the home landscape but there is a wild form, Lonicera Ciliosa. The bright orange berries on a vine with fused leaves are not palatable. The grape is another wild vine that has been crossed and domesticated. Passionfruit is a tropical to subtropical vine that produces a large berry-like fruit, the Maypop. Blue potato vine has wended its way into cultivation as an ornamental vine with crisp blue flowers and berry-like fruits, which belong to the nightshade family. Many more wild and native vines are crossed or hybridized for domestication in the home landscape.
Animals and Berries
Just because you have seen deer, bear, birds and other wildlife filling themselves with succulent berries does not mean they are safe for human consumption. There are numerous accounts of edible human fodder in guidebooks and Federal Forest service publications. It is wise to err on the side of caution and avoid any berry about which you are not knowledgeable. Special caution also needs to be taken with domestic animals. Your dog or cat may be interested in a berry that is edible to wild animals but will not sit well in the domestic animal's pampered stomach.
- Sharingwood Forest: A Fieldguide to Fruits and Berries of Sharingwood
- Ohio State University Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide: Wild Grapes
- Aggie Horticulture: Sarsaparrilla Vine
- University of Minnesota Extension; Wild and Edible Fruits of Minnesota; Emily E. Hoover
- Merriwether's Guide to Edible Wild Plants of Texas and the Southwest; Merriwether
- Yardener: Poison Trees, Shrubs and Vines
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages /Polka Dot/Getty Images