Thursday, July 23, 2009

Red Baneberry: Beautiful, but...

One of the surprise performers in the garden this year has been the red baneberry. I didn't know what to expect when I planted this native in the Woodland Walk in spring of 2008. It didn't do much last year. This year it has truly blossomed without any special care or attention.

Green berries carried high on sturdy stems caught my eye earlier this summer.

When the berries ripened to a deep red last week I stood in awe of just how beautiful they are. The berry bunches really "pop" against the lovely green foliage that serves as their backdrop. This is a plant that is winning me over. This is a plant I could make more room for. This is a plant I could grow to love. But there's a "but." A big "but." Those beautiful red berries are poisonous. Info on the interweb suggests just two berries are enough to kill a child. (Cue horror shriek!)

I always remind my little sprout to ask before eating anything from the garden or from nature. I'm sure she gets it because she asks. But berries are tempting little things aren't they? What if she forgets? What if the berries grab the attention of her playmates? The red baneberry is planted in the front yard, halfway up the walk to the front door. They are very visible from the sidewalk. What if a toddler wandered on over as they sometimes do?

To make matters worse the red baneberry is planted near two serviceberry shrubs. I'm always encouraging the sprout to eat the berries right off the branch, which she happily does by the handful. The other day, a complete stranger gathered a small jar full of serviceberries in exchange for some mint from her garden.

Planting poisonous berries next to colourful, inviting and edible berries seems to me like an invitation to confusion..or worse. Perhaps my penchant for imagining the worst case scenario is getting the best of me (too many years working in the news) but better safe than sorry. The red baneberry has to a more remote location, out of the public eye and out of public reach.


Connie said...

It is a beautiful plant....especially those glossy berries with the rich, deep color! But I think you are so wise to take responsibility about the safety issues.

Garden Lily said...

Good plan. A compromise would be to cut the berries (would make a nice arrangement) so they are no longer a temptation. But moving it away is a better solution.

Iowa Gardening Woman said...

Beautiful, but you are right, best to safe rather than sorry!

Gardenista said...

Yes, I've wondered about my dogwood berried adjacent the Saskatoon bushes. It sounds like baneberries are even more poisonous though. I'd move them too, to make them a little less accessible.