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

Types of 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 yellows 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 red or black large 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)

barberry

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)

redcurrant

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 (Vidurnum 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 is 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.

Cotoneaster

cotonestar

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 verticillate)

winterberry

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 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, and thornapple. Hawthorns 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

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

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)

Related articles: