November 30, 2009

Very Berry

Utah has many berries growing along the creeks in late August and September, and I thought you might be interested in seeing some of them.
Redosier dogwood.  Native Americans smoke the inner bark of redosier dogwood in tobacco mixtures used in the sacred pipe ceremony. Dreamcatchers, originating with the Potawotami, are made with the stems of the sacred redosier dogwood. Some tribes ate the white, sour berries, while others used the branches for arrow-making, stakes, or other tools. In California, peeled twigs were used as toothbrushes for their whitening effect on teeth. Bows and arrows were made from Cornus shoots. The inner bark is used for tanning or drying animal hides. (

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana).
The fruit has a sweetish, astringent taste and is fit for human consumption. The fruit makes excellent jellies and jams and is occasionally used for wine. Chokecherry leaves are poisonous, even fatal, to cattle, sheep, and horses, although they usually will not consume the plant unless no other forage is present. The poisoning agent is hydrocyanic (prussic) acid.
Western chokecherry is excellent to good forage for deer and elk. The fruit is relished by bear, many species of songbirds, pheasants, and grouse.
Native Americans would grind up the fruit, stone included, and store for future use, sometimes mixed with dried meat to make pemmican.

Black Twinberry Honeysuckle  (Caprifoliaceae Lonicera involucrata). The paired black berries are about one-third inch in diameter and are unpleasantly bitter tasting. The berries were used by Native Americans as a dye for hair and other materials. The fruits, stems and leaves were also used for a variety of medicinal purposes.
Blue Elderberry (Sambucus glauca). The berries are used as food for birds and human delicacies. The berries are somewhat distasteful when green. Ripe berries produce an abundance of sweet juice that is used for jelly, jam, syrup, etc. The whole berries, even though somewhat seedy, make excellent pies.
The native Americans had a use for almost all parts of this plant; berries for food
(fresh or dried); stems for tubes, pipes and musical instruments. Some Indians called this plant “the tree of music,” since the smaller twigs and limbs made excellent flutes.
Strips from larger limbs made arrow shafts. Flowers were used for external antiseptic washes.
Most of the berries which are gathered are used to make wine. Suggestions for home use are fresh or with cream as desserts such as pies, cobblers and fruit dumplings. Elderberries are often preserved whole, as juice, syrup and jelly. The flavor might be enhanced by combining with other fruits or fruit juices such as apples.
Red Baneberry (Actaea rubra).
All parts of the plant are poisonous. However, Accidental poisoning is not likely since the berries are extremely bitter. The berries are the most toxic part of the plant. A healthy adult will experience poisoning from as few as 6 berries. Ingestion of the berries causes nausea dizziness, increased pulse and severe gastrointestinal discomfort.[6][7]The toxins can also have an immediate sedative affect on the cardiac muscle tissue possibly leading to cardiac arrest if introduced into the bloodstream. As few as 2 berries may be fatal to a child.[7]
Native Americans used the juice from the fruits of various baneberry species to poison arrows.
-Wikipedia.  Admire these pretty berries from afar!
Serviceberry (Amelanchier utahensis).  Utah serviceberry is widely scattered throughout the state. It is common in the more arid areas in canyons, rocky areas, and foothills, usually between 3,000 and 9,000 feet in elevation. Once it is established, it tolerates drought well. The fruit of Utah serviceberry is an excellent source of bird food while the foliage is good browse for both wildlife and domestic livestock. It is a very important species for mule deer in the Great Basin. It provides good forage in late winter and early spring because it leafs out and blooms earlier than associated species. Utah serviceberry also provides good ground cover for watershed protection. The fruit, both fresh and dried, was extensively used as food by Indians. The branches were used for making bows.
Mountain Snowberry (Symphoricarpos oreophilus). Snowberry occurs on the edges of riparian zones, in woodlands, and in moist areas of the mountain brush zone, at elevations between 4,800 and 10,500 feet.
Although not highly nutritious or palatable, mountain snowberry is frequently one of the first species to leaf out, making it a highly sought after food in the early spring.  Small mammals and birds utilize the fruits. Native Americans used the fruits as an ematic and laxative, and steeped the roots to treat colds and stomachaches.
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), also known as kinnikinnick. The fruits of kinnikinnick are eaten by songbirds, gamebirds, including five species of grouse and wild turkey, deer, elk, and small mammals.
Black bear and grizzly bear eat kinnikinnick fruits in the autumn, but fruits are especially important to bears in the early spring.
Smoking the leaves as a tobacco substitute is the most widely mentioned human use of kinnikinnick. The leaves have been used for treating urinary tract disease. They can also be used to make a highly astringent wash and as a vasoconstrictor for the endometrium of the uterus. Some Native American tribes powdered the leaves and applied them to sores. For medical use the leaves are best collected in the fall.
The berrylike fruit have dry, insipid, and tasteless flesh when raw but are useful emergency food. Native Americans fried them or dried them and used them in pemmican. The fruit is also used in jelly, jam, and sauces.
Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium).
The small purplish-black fruits, which are quite tart and contain large seeds, are included in smaller quantities in the traditional diets of Pacific Northwest aboriginal peoples, mixed with Salal or another sweeter fruit. Today they are sometimes used to make jelly, alone or mixed with salal.[1] Oregon grape juice can be fermented to make wine, similar to European barberry wine folk traditions, although it requires an unusually high amount of sugar.[2] The inner bark of the larger stems and roots of Oregon-grape yield a yellow dye, the berries give purple dye.

To our great disappointment, we found only a few thimbleberries (above)

or wild raspberries this year.  (But we did make good use of those we located!)

To visit an abundance of varied worlds, click here.


  1. Thanks for a very informative post. I didn't realize so many berries were poisonous. I guess I'll stick to raspberries and blackberries!

  2. Know what, I came to know the existence of so many berries only through "Strawberry Shortcake", since berries are not so common in this part of the world.. This post of yours still more opens up the Berry world to me... :)

    My new blog on Fashion - FASHION PANACHE
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  3. Hi Janie,
    I wish I'd had this primer on berries when I was in UT last week! Very interesting. Who knew there are so many?

  4. Will you be making any jellies or jams? I don't like the sudden effects of the baneberry. Scary!

  5. Soo cute berries you have fresh!

    Great shots with lots of color picked from the lap of mother nature...very sweet :)

  6. Wonderful post, Janie. Very much the kind of post I find fascinating. I'm surprised to see so many of the berries that grow here!

  7. Wow, I had no idea there were so many wild berries. I have only heard of a few of those.
    Happy Monday!

  8. I want to know what my hair would look like dyed black twinberry honeysuckle. (goodness me, who was responsible for the english name!)The only one I recognize from here is the elderberry.

  9. Who'd of thought there were so many berries.

  10. It is a nice thing in the season of the crop.

    The fruit which you caught ripens fully beautifully.

  11. how fun to see all those beautiful Utah berries in one post.

  12. I had no idea so many berries grew there! I also didn't know how many berries are poisonous! Guess it's a good thing I'm not out plucking them, I'd be sure to happen on the poison ones! Guess I'll go along with George and stick to the ones that I know -- for sure! Really interesting post, Janie, and as always, your photos are terrific!

    Have a great week!


  13. What a wonderful informative post and I love your pictures.

  14. Janie: You certainly have done some neat work in just collecting all these berries photos in your world.

  15. A beautiful assortment of wild fruits and a very interesting post!

  16. Great berry shots! I don't think we have that kind of variety here in Florida.

  17. That's a great idea for a my world post. I enjoyed seeing the berries in Utah and you took some great shots.

  18. Berries are similar to spices in my view, in that they have nutritional and medicinal qualities that "pre science" ancient civilizations somehow knew anyway.

  19. Wow, what a berry beautiful post... had no idea there were so many where you are. Love all the information about what native americans did with them... thanks Janie !

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  21. How interesting, Janie... I haven't heard of some of those berries. What a great education. Thanks!!!!

    Guess I shouldn't try to eat many of those berries though, should I????


  22. Wow Janie I didn't realize there are so many berries in UT. I'm used to many of these in the Northwest, plus a few more. I like to graze on the tastey edible ones. Very informative post.

  23. What a great variety of berries and useful info. Beautiful post.
    These are all lovely photos, the Black Twinberry Honeysuckle looks so pretty.

  24. wow! that sure is a great variety!

  25. Just beautiful and delicious. I see I can eat some of them :)

    Roads of Japan

  26. Their berry beautiful. Natures way of feeding the world

  27. We have some those plants here in the east too. Elderberries are popular for pies in the Mennonite community. I prefer raspberries.

  28. These are wonderful. They cap the season with so much color and rich life.

  29. love least the ones that are edible...but they all look beautiful here. congrats on the OMG award!

  30. congrats on OMG award, beautiful pictures...magnificent.

    much love

  31. Don't eat the blue elderberries raw, they will make you sick. Cooked they are fine and make great syrup!

    Bob Lamb

  32. Do not eat the blue elderberries raw, they will make you very sick. Cooked they are great!



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