A Guide to Identifying Different Types of Red Berries

Red berries are a delightful and tasty treat that can be found on various shrubs, bushes, and trees. With their vibrant colors and delicious flavors, red berries are a popular choice for both cooking and snacking. However, it’s important to note that not all red berries are safe to eat. In fact, some types of red berries are toxic and can cause serious harm if consumed. Therefore, accurately identifying red berries is vital to differentiate between edible and inedible ones.

In this guide, we will explore different types of red berries and provide descriptions and pictures to help you identify them. Whether you come across these berries in the wild or in your garden, it’s essential to know which ones are safe to eat and which ones to avoid. Let’s dive in!

What Makes a Red Berry?

Botanically speaking, a red berry is a simple fruit with seeds and pulp produced from a single ovary of a single flower. Examples of true red berries include gooseberries, grapes, coffee berries, strawberry tree fruits, and barberries.

In common usage, many small edible fruits are referred to as berries, even if they are not true berries in the botanical sense. For instance, strawberries and raspberries, although referred to as berries, are not true berries. In this guide, we will use the term “red berries” to refer to all small round red fruits, regardless of their botanical classification.

Types of Red Berries – Identification Guide

Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)


Cranberries are small bright red berries with a distinctly refreshing tart flavor. They grow on trailing woody vines or shrubs and turn crimson when they ripen in the fall. Cranberries are typically too sharp and sour to eat raw, so they are often dried or juiced to make them sweeter.

Red Gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa)

Red Gooseberry

Red gooseberries are large globular fruits with a sweet fleshy center and a tart skin. They grow on spiny bushes covered in lobbed foliage and are known for their distinctive lighter veins. Red gooseberries can be used in jams, jellies, juices, and pies.

Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)


Lingonberries are small evergreen shrubs that produce bright red berries with an acidic, sour taste. These berries are typically used in jams, sauces, and desserts.

Hawthorn Berry (Crataegus spp.)

Hawthorn Berry

Hawthorn trees and shrubs produce small red drupes that resemble berries. These round fruits are edible and popular in jellies, jams, and chutneys. However, the seeds contain cyanide and should not be eaten.

Barberry (Berberis spp.)


Barberries are small football-shaped red berries that grow on tall evergreen shrubs. They are known for their tart, slightly sweet taste and are typically used in Middle Eastern cuisine or jams.

These are just a few examples of the many types of red berries that you might come across. It’s important to note that some red berries, such as those from holly shrubs, mistletoe, lily of the valley, and cotoneaster plants, are toxic and should never be consumed.

To ensure your safety, always accurately identify red berries before consuming them. If you’re unsure about the variety of plants, it’s best to avoid eating unidentified red fruits to prevent any potential harm.

Remember, red berries can be a delightful addition to your meals and snacks, but it’s crucial to exercise caution and make informed choices when it comes to foraging and consuming them.