Baneberry vs. Highbush Cranberry

High bush cranberries and baneberries Anyone who as thumbed through a book or perused a website about Alaska berries knows about baneberries.  They are highly poisonous and to be avoided at all costs.  I figured that was simple enough to do.  Baneberries seemed distinctive from other berries.  They could easily be spotted and distinguished on their own in the woods.  I thought they shouldn’t be difficult to avoid.  Recently I was picking high bush cranberries and learned how easy it could be to mistakenly add some baneberries to your highbush cranberry harvest.  The baneberry plants were growing alongside the high bush cranberries and the branches intertwined.  Both berries have black dots in the center of the red.  The high bush cranberries are translucent while the baneberries are opaque, but the distinction is small.  Both berries were soft at the time I was picking.   The leaves of the plants are shaped differently, but have a lot of similarities and are difficult to distinguish from one another when you are in the bushes and everything around you is green.   It seemed easy enough that when reaching for a handful of cranberries, one might pick one or two of the baneberries as well.   Being that small amounts can do lots of damage, it was alarming.  Luckily we were paying close enough attention and avoided any trouble.  The highbush cranberry bushes were very tall in that area and the baneberry plants were all below the waste.  I passed over all the high bush cranberries that were growing low and discarded any somewhat questionable berries.  I rechecked when cleaning the highbush cranberries at home.  When juicing the berries for jelly, I didn’t come across any different looking seeds. has an entry that warns about this possible confusion    Alaska poisonous plants


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