Learning from our berry hard work.

Today Deer Park Academy came ready to restore Willow Creek!  Students remembered that our native plants and shrubs have dynamic root structures that will prevent erosion and that we need to remove Armenian Blackberry (formerly known as Himalayan Blackberry) to allow those natives to grow!

Students reviewed the effective methods of removing blackberry and even identified the differences between Armenian Blackberry and Trailing Blackberry.

While working, we reviewed the names of the many native trees and shrubs volunteers have planted at the site.  While reviewing these, we began wondering who eats the many berries these plants produce and how toxic they are to people.  Below is information regarding some of the berries we encountered/ might encounter together.  The moral of the story always remains that you should never eat a berry without knowing its effects on you!

Common Snowberry (S. albus) is a winter food source for birds such as quail, grouse, and pheasants, but is poisonous to humans. The berries contain the isoquinoline alkaloid chelidonine, as well as
other alkaloids (type of chemical compounds).  Ingesting the berries causes mild symptoms of vomiting, dizziness, and slight sedation in children.  Snowberry is a native shrub we have planted at Willow Creek and many of our restoration sites in the Portland- Metro Area.

File:Symphoricarpos albus 7927.jpg

Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna) is one of the most toxic plants found in the Western hemisphere.   All parts of the plant are poisonous.  The berries may be the greatest danger to children because they look red and delicious and have a somewhat sweet taste.  Don’t be fooled!  The consumption of two to five berries by children and ten to twenty berries by adults are probably fatal.   The root of the plant is normally the most toxic part, though this can vary from one plant to another  Ingestion of a single leaf of the plant can be lethal to an adult.  Atropa belladonna is also toxic to many domestic animals, causing narcosis and paralysis.   However, cattle and rabbits eat the plant seemingly without suffering harmful effect.  Never eat this plant!

Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana) have flowers, which appear in early summer, and can have a pleasantly strong fragrance.  The fruits (hips) of Nootka rose are apparently somewhat bitter but edible.  It is
reported that freezing and thawing will greatly mitigate the bitterness and make the hips much more palatable.  It is very important to know that only the rind should be eaten as the seeds are irritating.  Eating some huckleberry or thimbleberry might be much more pleasant!

File:Rose hips.jpg

Armenian Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) is of course devastatingly invasive.  However, these berries are eatable and delicious.   Often times we pick the berries when they are ripe in the summer… then we cut the plant down and dig out its root bulb.

Trailing Blackberry (Rubus ursinus) is a native blackberry with much smaller thorns and only 3 leaflets and it too is eatable and delicious.

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) is edible and shares the fruit structure of the raspberry, with the fruit pulling away from its receptacle.  They are good eaten raw as well as in jam, candy, jelly and wine. They are an important food for indigenous peoples.  Traditionally, the berries were eaten with salmon or mixed with oolichan grease or salmon eggs.  Yum!

Thanks for all of the great questions, Deer Park!  You are quite a berry awesome Green Team!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s