Types of Red Berries That Grow on Trees or Shrubs: Identification Guide with Pictures and Names

Red Berries That Grow on Trees or Shrubs

Red berries that grow on trees or shrubs add a dash of color to any garden. Shrubs and trees with edible red berries have the bonus of providing tasty, healthy fruits. Who can’t resist eating sweet red cherries, tart red currants, or juicy red gooseberries? However not all red berries are edible, and it’s essential to distinguish between ones that are good for you and poisonous berries.

There are many reasons to have trees and bushes in your backyard that produce red berries. Very often, the scarlet-colored berries appear in winter when gardens and yards may lack color. The bright red colors contrasting with dark green foliage can help brighten up your yard.

Another reason to have edible red berries in your garden is that they are incredibly healthy. Apart from having a great taste, red berries that you can eat are packed full of antioxidants. You can eat them straight off the tree or bush or use them in salads, desserts, or cereals.

You may also come across red berries while walking in woodlands, forests, or other open spaces. It’s important to remember that some types of red berries are extremely poisonous. So, you need to identify the exact species of berry before eating them. If you have any doubts, you should avoid eating red-colored berries that are unfamiliar.

In this article, you will learn about the many types of trees and shrubs that grow red berries. Pictures, descriptions, and the scientific names of these types of fruits will help identify the trees and bushes where fiery red-colored berries grow.

Identification of Red Berries

To identify the type of berry growing, you need to identify the tree or bush. To do this, you should take note of the shape of the leaves, size of the tree or shrub, and shape of the plant.

When you think of plants producing red berries, most people think of strawberries and raspberries. However, botanically speaking, these types of fruits are not true berries. Scientists classify these juicy summer fruits as aggregate accessory fruits rather than a kind of berry.

Bushes or Shrubs with Red Berries

There are many shrubs or large bushes with red berries that look amazing in any landscape.

For example, the cotoneaster has small glossy leaves, white flowers in spring and summer, and then brilliant red berries in the fall and winter. Holly shrubs are synonymous with Christmas with their glossy jaggy green leaves and inedible poisonous deep red berries. Although eating these types of red berries may not kill you, ingesting them can cause nausea, stomach cramps, and even seizures.

Shrubs such as red currants and red gooseberries both produce red berries that are delicious to eat.

Trees with Red Berries

Red berries are found on both evergreen types of trees and deciduous trees.

There are some red berry-producing trees such as cherry trees and hawthorn trees that most people have heard of. Both types of these trees produce sweet or sour edible berry-like fruits.

You should stay clear of red berries from trees such as holly trees and mistletoe trees.

Red berry tree identification

Identifying the type of the red berry tree is usually done by examining the leaves of the tree, its flowers, and the type of the trunk. Another way to identify the kind of red berry tree or bush is by the berry itself.

Types of Red Berries Grown on Shrubs (With Pictures and Identification Guide)

Let’s look in more detail at many kinds of shrubs or bushes that produce red berries.

Pin Cherries (Prunus pensylvanica)

pin cherry

The small red edible pin cherries grow on a large bush

These edible small red berries also have the name bird cherries, red cherries, or fire cherries. They grow on a large shrub that can sometimes be as tall as a small tree.

The shrub grows to between 16 and 98 ft. (5 – 15 m) tall and is identified by a round-topped crown. Leaves are lanceolate in shape and grow alternately on long reddish thin stems. Each of the bright red cherries can grow up to 0.31” (8 mm) across and contain a single seed.

You can often find pin cherries growing along river banks and in parks.

Snake Berries (Potentilla indica or Duchesnea indica)

snake berry

There are several plants called snake berry and some of them are poisonous

Although not classed as a true berry, snake berries produce red or white fruits that look like berries. Snake berry plants also have the common names of Indian strawberry, false strawberry, or mock strawberry.

It can be challenging to tell snake berries apart from true strawberries just by their leaves and growth habit. Visually, their foliage is similar with light green leaves that have serrated edges. The snake berries are similar in size to small strawberries but have a spiky look to them. Unlike true strawberries that are juicy and tasty, mock strawberries have little taste.

The National Institutes of Health says that snake berries from the Duchesnea species are not poisonous. (1)

However, because snake berries are a common name for a few other plants, some other species of berries may be toxic. For that reason, you should always check the scientific name when identifying plants. Later in the article, you can read about bittersweet nightshade – a plant with poisonous red berries, also called snake berries.

Red Gooseberry Bush (Ribes uva-crispa)

red gooseberry

Red gooseberry bush produces edible tart berries

You may associate gooseberries with types of sour green berries, but some gooseberry shrubs produce red berries.

Gooseberry shrubs usually grow to about 5 ft. (1.5 m) high and have woody stems with sharp thorns. Leaves on the gooseberry bush are light green with 3 or 5 lobed leaves. The tart green or red berries have an oval shape with tiny hairs covering them.

As well as producing red or green berries, some species of gooseberries have white or yellow berries.

Due to their tartness, gooseberries are a great type of berry you can use in savory or sweet dishes. You can sweeten them and use them as a pie filling. Or, you can spice them up to make homemade gooseberry chutney.

Red Chokeberry Bush (Aronia)

red chokeberry

Red chokeberries grow on a bushes and have sour taste

Chokeberries are a species of deciduous shrub that have large red or black berries. Also called Aronia berries, these sour-tasting shrub berries really make your mouth pucker.

The most common type of chokeberry bush is the black chokeberry. However, the species Aronia arbutifolia is the species of shrub that produces red chokeberries. This shrub grows to between 6.5 and 13 ft. (2 – 4 m) tall and has large leaves. Before the red sour berries appear, beautiful white flowers grace the green foliage. The red fruits are between 0.15” and 0.39” (4 – 10 mm) wide.

Although you can eat the fruits straight off the bush, they are too sharp and sour for most people to eat raw.

Chokeberries are a hardy shrub that are perfect if you want edible red fruits in the fall and winter.

Chokeberries are often confused for another berry-producing shrub called chokecherries (Prunus virginiana). This is also a large bush that has bright red or black berries growing on it. Similar to chokeberries, these “cherry” fruits have a sharp, astringent taste.

Barberry (Berberis)


The small red berries grown on barberry bush are edible but taste sour

Barberry is a shrub that grows in most parts of the world and has small edible red berries on it. Some species of this flowering shrub are deciduous and some are evergreen.

This plant with red berries is identified by its long shoots that can grow up to 13 ft. (4 m) high. You will notice that the shoots have small oval green leaves that grow in clusters. After the yellow flowers appear, red oblong-shaped berries appear. These can be up to 0.39” (1 cm) long. You can eat the bright red berries straight off the plant, but they taste very sour.

Redcurrants (Ribes rubrum)


Redcurrants are popular edible berries grown on shrubs

No list of the most popular red berries would be complete without mentioning redcurrants. Redcurrants are in the same family, Grossulariaceae, as gooseberries.

The redcurrant shrub has thin stems and large 5-lobed leaves. The most noticeable feature of the redcurrant plant is the large clusters of edible red berries hanging off the branches. These translucent red berry fruits are around 0.39” (1 cm) in diameter. There are so many currants on the bush that a single season can produce up to 9 lb. (4 kg) of tasty bright red berries.

What do redcurrants taste like? Many describe redcurrants having a tarter taste than black currants or white currants with hints of raspberry, gooseberry, and rhubarb.

Hobble Bush (Viburnum lantanoides)

hobble bush

The large hobble bush produces sweet edible berries

Also called moosewood, witch-hobble, and the American wayfaring tree, this perennial type of shrub has red berries that turn black as they ripen.

The shrub is native to the eastern regions of North America, where it is found in forests, growing along river banks, and in swamps. The large bush has large oval leaves with serrated margins. These can grow to between 3.9” and 7.8” (10 – 20 cm) long. Clusters of showy flowers appear before the red edible fruit berries.

Many people describe the taste of hobble bush berries as sweet like raisins or dates. They are an ovoid shape, measure 0.6” (1.5 cm) long, and seemingly taste better after frost.

Tatarian Honeysuckle Bush (Lonicera tatarica)

Tatarian huneysuckle

The Tatarian honeysuckle is a large bush that produces poisonous red berries

Tatarian honeysuckle produces bright red berries that you should never eat. This bushy shrub is identified by its dull dark green oval leaves and large tubular pink to white flowers.

Like many species of shrubs in the honeysuckle family, the Tatarian honeysuckle is a large, oval-shaped flowering bush. It can grow to between 9 and 12 ft. with a large spread. It looks stunning when dark pink flowers cover the green foliage.

Because of its vigorous growth habit, many people consider this plant as an invasive species. Although the red berries look juicy and tempting, they are toxic to humans. Eating these berries by mistake can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping.

Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)

bittersweet nightshade

The bittersweet nightshade plant has poisonous red berries

With a name like bittersweet nightshade, it is not surprising that you shouldn’t eat the red berries from this plant. Other names for this shrub include poisonberry, poisonflower, and bitter nightshade. Another common name is snakeberry, and it shouldn’t be confused with mock strawberries (also called snake berries).

Bittersweet is an herbaceous vine that is in the nightshade family, Solanaceae. This means that bittersweet plant is related to tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants.

The red berries on bittersweet can look like tiny red tomatoes. Even though the red berries look soft and juicy, they are poisonous for humans and are dangerous for children.



The red berries on cotoneaster plants are poisonous

The masses of dull red berries on cotoneaster plants may look attractive, but they are highly toxic and you should never consume them. Most species of cotoneasters in the genus are small to large shrubs growing between 1.6 and 16 ft. (0.5 – 5 m) tall.

The red berries on the leafy shrub look like clusters of cranberries. The leaves can be any shape from ovate to lanceolate and up to 6” (15 cm) long, depending on the species. Most species of cotoneaster shrubs have masses of poisonous red berries. However, berries can also be pink, scarlet-red, orange, or black.

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)


The ornamental winterberry shrub produces non-edible red berries

Winterberry is a deciduous shrubby plant in the holly family that produces many inedible red berries. Although the berries have been used in traditional medicine, ingesting them can cause nausea and low blood pressure.

Winterberry shrubs have great ornamental value in landscaped gardens. They grow to between 3 and 16 ft. (1 – 5 m) tall and have glossy green leaves from spring to fall. The lance-shaped leaves have slightly serrated edges that are 3.5” (9 cm) long. As its name suggests, winterberry berries last throughout the winter. The leafless branches are adorned with clusters of scarlet-red berries.

These shrubs provide beautiful color in a winter garden.

Types of Red Berries that Grow on Trees (With Pictures and Identification Guide)

Let’s look in more detail at the various types of red berries you can find growing on trees.

Red Cherry Trees

cherry tree

Cherry trees produce various edible cherries that range in color and taste

Although botanically speaking red cherries are a type of drupe, many people class cherries on their list of most popular tree berry.

Many types of cherry trees in the genus Prunus, produce stunning spring blossoms and delicious red edible fruits. There are many different types of cherries ranging in taste from sour to sweet. They can also be yellow, red, crimson red, or deep red colors.

Cornelian Cherry Dogwood (Cornus mas)

cornus mas

Cornus mas is a large shrub or a small tree with edible berry-like fruits

Dogwood is a large flowering shrub or tree that has long green leaves, small yellow flowers, and red berry-like drupes. The little shiny red dogwood berries have the shape of coffee beans. When ripe, they taste like a cross between cranberries and sour cherries.

Dogwood trees are native to countries in Southern Europe and Southwestern Asia. The tree grows to between 16 and 40 ft. (5 – 12 m) tall, leaves are oval or oblong and measure up to 4” (10 cm) long and 1.5” wide.

Related: Amazing Varieties of Sweet and Tart (Sour) Cherries (With Pictures)

Peruvian Pepper (Schinus molle)

Peruvian pepper

Peruvian pepper tree produces red berries with peppery taste

Other names for this tree include American pepper, false pepper, or the California pepper tree. As the common names suggest, this species of evergreen tree produces small red berries with a peppery taste.

The identifying features of this red berry tree are its pinnate fern-like leaves, small white flowers, and small berry-like drupes with peppery red or pink woody seeds. These tree fruits grow in large clusters and can grow on the tree all year long.

The pepper tree grows in hot arid climates and can be found in Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, and Louisiana. Other countries where this species of pepper tree grows are Peru, South Africa, and Australia.

The tree fruits are considered safe for consumption. However, young children may experience stomach upset after consuming the fruits.

Hawthorn Trees (Crataegus)

hawthorn tree

Hawthorn trees produce edible berry-like fruits but the seeds are toxic

Hawthorns are small trees with thorny branches that produce berry-like fruits. Other common names for the hawthorn tree are hawberry, quickthorn, thornapple, and mayhaw. Hawthorns are thorny trees that grow in many countries that have a temperate climate.

The identifying features of hawthorns are short trunks, branches that spread out and leaves arranged spirally on the shoots. Although the tree’s red fruits look like berries, they are a type of pome. So, the fruits more resemble tiny miniature apples than being a true berry.

You can eat hawthorn berries, however similar to apples, the seeds can be toxic and you shouldn’t eat them.

American Holly Tree (Ilex opaca)

American holly

American holly is a large tree that has red poisonous berries

This type of holly is an evergreen tree with jaggy glossy leaves and toxic red berries. The holly leaves with their bright red berries are a classic symbol of Christmas.

This species of holly tree is a large tree that can grow up to 98 ft. (30 m) tall. The leaves stay green all winter and the red berry-like fruit adds color when little else is growing in the gardens and parks.

Like with other types of red berries from plants in the genus Ilex, they are toxic to humans and shouldn’t be consumed.

Red Berry Mistletoe (Viscum cruciatum)


Mistletoe plant produces poisonous red berries

Mistletoe is a plant producing poisonous red berries. This plant is neither a berry-producing shrub nor tree but is a type of parasitic plant that grows on trees and shrubs.

You can often spot red berry mistletoe growing high in the branches of tall trees where it can be mistaken for birds’ nests. This berry plant has small smooth oval green leaves and clusters of 2 to 6 berries.

Most people are familiar with the mistletoe species Viscum album (European mistletoe). The mistletoe species is a plant with small green leaves and white berries that are often associated with Christmas decorations.

Related: Delicious Types of Berries With Their Picture

Sumac Trees and Shrubs (Rhus)

Sumac fruit

Sumac fruit

Sumac (genus Rhus) is a group of flowering small trees and shrubs. Sumac trees such as the staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), and fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) produce edible red berry-like drupes. Although they look like berries, sumac fruits are drupes—fruits with a seed in the middle like a peach or apricot.

The red berry-like fruit of sumac trees grow in large cone-like clusters. Each small red sumac fruit measures 0.16” (4 mm) across. The sumac berries have characteristic fine hairs, giving the red drupe a fuzzy appearance. The clusters of crimson-red sumac fruits grow up to 12” (30 cm) long.

The red sumac drupes have a citrusy flavor with a distinct tangy taste and are high in vitamin C. Sumac berries are also used to create sumac spice, popular in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Sumac spice

The red sumac spice is mainly cultivated from the Syrian sumac (Rhus coriaria) and is commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine and other spice mixtures such as za’atar (left)

Red Heavenly Bamboo Berries (Nandina Domestica)

nandina domestica heavenly banboo

Nandina domestica (heavenly bamboo) shrub has poisonous red berries and summer green foliage before turning red in autumn

Nandina (Nandina domestica) is an evergreen, ornamental landscape shrub with upright growth, brightly colored leaves and crimson red berries that are poisonous. Nandina shrubs are adaptable to most conditions. They grow well in most types of soils, survive drought well, and are relatively pest and disease resistant.

Nandina bushes bloom in spring, and new leaves appear reddish-pink. Summer colors are green before the leaves turn red, and the red berries appear in fall and persist through winter.

Nandina thrives in USDA zones 6 to 9 and grows best in full sun or partial shade. It has medium growth and matures between 6 and 8 ft. (1.8 – 2.4 m) tall and up to 3 ft. (1 m) wide.

Nandina is considered invasive in many areas due to its suckering nature. However, if you want to grow nandina in your yard, you can choose from many nandina cultivars that don’t produce flowers and fruit, and therefore are better for growing in gardens.

Mulberry Trees (Morus)

mulberry fruit

Mulberry berry-like fruit

Mulberry trees (botanical name Morus) are popular deciduous trees that produce delicious edible white, red, or black berry-like fruits. Commonly called mulberries, the medium-sized, berry-producing trees have attractive heart-shaped leaves, spikes of tiny white flowers (catkins), and thick grayish-brown bark.

The mulberries can be eaten fresh, and are suitable for making jellies, jams, pies, or tarts. Additionally, the mulberry berries attract plenty of birds to your summer garden.

The common species of mulberry trees are red mulberry (Morus rubra), white mulberry (Morus alba), and black mulberry (Morus nigra). They thrive in USDA zones 4 through 9, full to partial sun, and well-drained soils. In addition, the mulberry tree is relatively resistant to pests and disease.

The mature size of mulberry tree depends on the species. White mulberry is the tallest at 80 ft. (24 m), and the common red mulberry grows up to 70 ft. (21 m). The black mulberry is the smallest species, with a height of around 30 ft. (9 m).

Additionally, there are many mulberry cultivars, such as the weeping mulberry tree (Morus alba ‘Pendula’), fruitless mulberry tree, and dwarf mulberry tree which is ideal for containers, and grows 2 to 6 ft. (0.6 – 1.8 m) tall.

Yew Trees (Taxus)

yew leaves and mature and immature fruit

Yew leaves and mature and immature fruit

Yew (botanical name Taxus) is a genus of slow-growing coniferous evergreen trees and shrubs. Yews are identified by their thin, scaly brown bark, tiny single-seed cones, red fruits, and linear flat leaves. The English yew (Taxus baccata) is the most common species. But Irish yew, Western yew, and Japanese yew are also ornamental conifer trees.

An identifiable feature of yew trees is the red berry-like fruits called arils. These cup-shaped fruits contain a single poisonous seed. The fleshy-red aril is the only part of the yew plant that is edible. Unlike most species of conifers with seed-bearing cones, yew fruit and seeds grow directly on the stems, not in cones.

Yews are cold-hardy evergreen trees that thrive in USDA zones 3 to 7. Yews can grow in temperatures as low as -13°F (-25°C); however, the shade-loving trees don’t perform well in prolonged hot temperatures. Ensure that the ground is well-draining and protect yew trees from heat, drought, and full sun for more than six hours a day.

Further reading: Yew Trees: Types, Berries, Leaves – Identification.

Buffalo Berry (Shepherdia

Buffalo Berry (Shepherdia) 

Buffaloberry (Shepherdia) shrub produces edible sour-tasting red berries

Buffalo berry is a dark red fruit with a rough texture and a sour taste. The clusters of red berries have identifiable tiny white dots on them. The red fruit grows abundantly on the buffaloberry plant, a large deciduous shrub or small tree that grows 8 – 10 ft. (2.4 – 3 m) tall.

The sour-tasting bright red berries are typically used in making jellies, jams, or pies.

Buffalo berry shrubs are identified by their attractive narrow, oblong leaves, thorny branches, and pea-sized, bright red berries. The green leaves contrasting with the red-colored fruit make the thicket-forming plant a beautiful background plant, security hedge, or specimen plant.

Another attractive bush with red berries is the silver buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea). This cultivar has silvery-green leaves that grow up to 2” (5 cm) long. Each red berry on the bush contains a single seed, and the berries measure 0.25” (6 mm) in diameter.

Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus)

Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus)

Butcher’s broom is an evergreen shrubs with red berries that are edible to birds but poisonous for humans

The red berries on an evergreen butcher’s broom shrub are identified as large round or oblong glossy red fruits that ripen in the late summer and fall. The attractive red fruits on the evergreen bush grow in small clusters. The berries emerge green before turning a bright red color in the summer.

Butcher’s broom berries measure 0.4” (10 mm) across.

Another identifying feature of butcher’s broom shrubs is the large, unusual spiny, thick leaf-like structures measuring 1.5” (38 mm) long. This growth characteristic is modified stems that look like leaves. The tough red berries grow among the stiff leaves.

Due to the evergreen foliage and abundant deep red to bright red berries, butcher’s broom is a common landscaping plant. The bushy shrub keeps its red and green colors throughout the winter

Spindles (Euonymus europaeus)

Spindles (Euonymus europaeus)

The unusually shaped red berries of spindle trees/shrubs are toxic and should not be ingested

The spindle is a small tree or large shrub that produces showy pinkish-red berries in the fall. Each small reddish berry contains tiny seeds encased in an orange aril, similar to a pomegranate. The unusual inedible red berries have four lobes, giving them a bumpy appearance. They split open in the fall to reveal the orange seeds.

Identifying characteristics of the spindle tree are its lanceolate leaves with serrated margins, irregular crown, showy fall fruit, and stunning yellow fall colors. The attractive landscape tree grows 12 to 20 ft. (3.6 – 6 m) tall and up to 16 ft. (4.9 m) wide.

Although they look attractive, the showy red berries are poisonous and should not be consumed. Despite producing poisonous red fruit, spindle trees are popular for foundation planting, using as a deciduous hedge, or planting as a specimen tree.

Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa

Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) 

The small red elderberries should not be eaten raw and must be cooked first

Clusters of bright red fruit are the identifying feature of the large red elderberry shrub. The tiny round red berries grow in dense clusters and add attractive bright red colors to the shrub in the summer and fall. The bunches of little red fruits follow clusters of lemon-scented white flowers.

Also called the red-berried elder, other species of the tree produce black or white small round berries. Although red elderberries are safe to eat after cooking, you should never eat them raw. Ingesting the tiny red berries can cause discomfort.

In the landscape, the red elderberry plant is a tall shrub growing 7 – 20 ft. (2 – 6 m) tall. The multi-stemmed treelike bush is identified by its pinnate-compound leaves containing five to seven leaflets. The clusters of flowers grow in a characteristic dome shape, followed by dark red elderberry fruits.

Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa)

Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa)

The edible Nanking red cherries grow on a deciduous ornamental shrub

The identification traits of the ornamental Nanking cherry tree are its edible scarlet red berry-like drupes, masses of fragrant white showy flowers, and dark green leaves growing on reddish stems. The bright red fruits have a sweet, slightly tart taste and ripen to scarlet in summer.

Other common names for the Nanking cherry include downy cherry, mountain cherry, and Chinese bush cherry. Despite being called a cherry, this red fruit with a large stone in the center more resembles a plum. Each red-colored drupe measures between 0.2” to 0.47” (5 – 12 mm) in diameter.

Red Nanking cherry drupes grow on a deciduous shrub maturing at 10 ft. (3 m) tall. However, with care and pruning, the fast-growing shrub is ideal for foundation planting, growing along borders, or planting as a privacy screen or windbreak.

Apart from its decorative uses in a garden landscape, the abundant red berries are delicious and attract wildlife. In addition, the tangy-sweet red “berries” are popular for making jams, wine, juice, or pickling with vegetables.

Evans Cherry (Prunus cerasus ‘Evans’)

Evans Cherry (Prunus cerasus ‘Evans’)

Evans cherry is a small tree that produces edible sour red berry-like fruit

Bright red berry-like fruit help to identify the Evans cherry tree in springtime. The vibrant red cherry fruits are a type of sour cherry growing in dangling clusters on the small tree. Like all types of cherry, the red fruits have a large stone in the center. The tart taste of the shiny red drupes makes them ideal for use in cherry pies or jam.

Also called ‘Bali,’ Evans cherry trees are smaller than other types of sour cherry trees. The attractive deciduous tree grows 12 to 14 ft. (3.6 – 4.2 m). The cold-hardy tree thrives in freezing climates and thrives in USDA zone 3.

Apart from the attractive and tasty red berries, these trees are perfect for garden landscapes. The trees bloom in early spring with spectacular displays of white cherry blossoms emerging from pink buds. These showy blooms fill the air with sweet aromas. Next, the masses of white flowers develop into large glossy red drupes. Then in the fall, the dark green leaves turn to stunning shades of yellow.

High Bush Cranberries (Viburnum trilobum)

High Bush Cranberries (Viburnum trilobum)

Highbush cranberry  is a deciduous shrub with sour tasting small red berry-like fruit

Clusters of tiny red glossy berry-like drupes help identify the ‘highbush cranberry.’ The tangy edible red berries have a sour taste, just like cranberries. The berries can be eaten fresh off the low-growing bush or used to create a sweet and sour sauce to serve with meat.

The deciduous highbush cranberry shrub is a beautiful plant for the landscape. The shrub’s growth habit is dense arching stems with reddish-brown bark and attractive leaves. Its red “berries” measure 0.6” (15 mm) long and 0.47” (12 mm) broad and brighten up fall and winter garden landscapes.

Other names for the high bush cranberry include cranberrybush viburnum, highbush cranberry, or American cranberry. Despite its name, the small shrub isn’t related to the cranberry (Vaccinium subg. Oxycoccus). Instead, the name cranberry comes from the resemblance of the shrub’s red fruits to cranberries. Like cranberries, the small bright red berries persist on the plant until early winter.

Its leaf shape is another recognizable feature of this viburnum plant. The foliage consists of maple-like leaves with a rounded bottom and serrated margins. The large shrub comes to life in spring when clusters of pretty white flowers bloom. These are followed by bunches of shiny round pale red to bright red berries. In the fall, the shrub’s foliage turns a spectacular red color.

Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum)

Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum)

Linden viburnum shrub produces little red edible “berries” and is identified by it linden-like leaves

Linden viburnum is identified by its large clusters of tiny red “berries” with a smooth, shiny coating. The glossy red drupes provide plenty of color in the garden, contrasting with the large heart-shaped leaves. The linden viburnum is usually planted as an ornamental landscape plant for its beautiful white flowers and vibrant red berry clusters.

Also called linden arrowwood, this Viburnum species is a 10-foot (3 m) tall shrub with red berries measuring 0.3” (8 mm). Apart from its characteristic red berries, identifying features of the linden viburnum are its broadly ovate leaves with toothed margins, orangey-brown bark, and white flowers. In the fall, its dark green leaves turn to shades of red, burgundy, and bronze.

The common name of Viburnum dilatatum comes from the shrub’s foliage that is like leaves from the linden tree. To increase the number of bright red berries on the bush, plant a few shrubs together to create a flowering hedgerow.

Although it is planted throughout North America in residential gardens, some areas consider it invasive.

Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)

Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)

The evergreen strawberry tree has red spiky edible berries

Spiky red berries are an unusual identifying trait of the evergreen strawberry tree. The spherical red berries have a rough surface and have a pleasant, sweet taste. The berries range in size from 0.3” to 0.8” (7 – 20 mm) and are ripe for eating in the fall, just when the plant begins to blossom again.

Thriving in USDA zones 7 – 10, the strawberry tree is a large broadleaf shrub that grows between 6 and 15 ft. (1.8 – 4.5 m). The ornamental shrub is identified by its unusual yellow and red fruit, fragrant bell-shaped white flowers, and peeling gray-brown bark. The glossy green leaves grow on reddish stems.

The unusual red berries from the strawberry tree have a subtle aroma like anise. Biting into the strawberry fruit reveals a sweet, tangy flavor reminiscent of mango, peach, and apricot. The berries emerge yellow and turn red as they ripen. However, the sweet red berries are usually made into jams, jellies, and sauces due to their gritty texture.

Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)

raspberry shrub

Raspberry bush produce red berry-like delicious fruit that can be eaten fresh from the shrub or cooked in deserts

The red raspberry is a sweet-tart red fruit that grows on a bush. The tasty fruits are relatively small, measuring about 0.4” (1 cm) long. Red raspberries have a bumpy texture because they consist of tiny juicy fused capsules, each containing seed. Raspberry bushes are perennial plants that grow 5 to 8 ft. (1.5 – 2.5 m) tall.

Although commonly called a berry, raspberries are a type of aggregate fruit that contains several drupelets. These bright to dark red drupelets form a conical fruit. When picking raspberries from the bush, the core separates, revealing a hollow fruit. This habit is different between raspberries and other fruits in the genus Rubus—blackberries, dewberries, and brambles.

Wild raspberries growing on long canes have leaf shapes with toothed margins like poison ivy or poison oak foliage. However, wild raspberries are not poisonous, and you can eat the tasty red berry-like fruits. Of course, poison oak and poison ivy don’t produce berries like raspberries. Instead, they have poisonous round drupes.

Rowan Tree (Sorbus)

Rowan Tree Berries

Rowan tree produces bright red or orange berry-like fruit that measure 0.25” (6 mm) and grow in dense clusters

The rowan tree is a small ornamental flowering tree that is known for its clusters of white spring flowers followed by colorful red berries.

The bright red berry-like fruit of rowan trees measure 0.25” (6 mm) and grow in dense clusters. Rowan berries ripen in late summer or fall and persist on the tree until winter.

Although called a berry, rowan tree fruit is a type of pome or accessory fruit. The small round red berries grow densely in clusters, and their vivid colors stand out against the dark foliage.

Rowan tree berries are edible. However, rowan berries have a naturally bitter taste and are unpalatable eaten straight off the tree. Additionally, raw rowan berries are slightly poisonous and must be cooked to break down the acid. Typically, rowan berries are made into delicious jellies.

The identifying features of rowan trees are their pinnately compound leaves, flat-topped clusters of white flowers, and showy red berries. Rowan trees grow between 10 and 30 ft. (3 – 9 m) tall. Their compound leaf leaflets grow alternately on stems, and white spring flowers give way to brightly colored red berries.

Proceed with Caution

If you are unsure about the species of plant that red berries are from, you should never eat them. Also, if you have houseplants that grow toxic red berries, you should keep them away from pets and children.

The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine warns about the dangers of certain popular holiday plants that have red berries. Very often, the poisonous substances in some types of berries affect children and pets more severely than adults. Some of the berries mentioned on this list are American and European mistletoe, English and American holly, and bittersweet. (2)

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