Many trees produce berries, which are fruits produced from a single ovary that are fleshy. However, in common usage, people apply the term “berry” to any small fruit. Some of the most common berry-producing trees in North America include the mulberry, beautyberry, holly, juniper and blueberry.
Properly identifying a tree with berries requires close examination of the tree’s characteristics. Some species, such as orange trees, are easy to identify, while others, such as the various relatives of blueberry trees, may require extensive examination of subtle traits. The location in which the tree grows may provide clues to its identification as well. For example, a small tree with bright red berries growing in Virginia may be a dogwood tree; however, as the species is restricted to the east coast of the United States, a red-berried tree in California is not likely to be a dogwood.
Never consume the berries of a tree unless the tree’s identification is established, and the berries are known to be edible. The berries of some trees and shrubs, for example pokeweed and dogwood, are highly toxic. Observing birds or animals eating the berries of a tree does not ensure that the fruits are not toxic to humans, as many animals have evolved ways to cope with some poisonous berries.