Late summer and autumn are the perfect times of year for seeking out wild fruits, nuts, seeds and berries. These can be found everywhere – in parks, woodlands, river banks … and hedgerows – one of my favorite places for berry hunting.
There are so many different fruits and berries growing on shrubs, trees and plants all over our hedgerows. Some are common, some deadly, some edible and some more difficult to find.
Here I shall introduce 12 of the most common hedgerow berries you are likely to come across in the hedgerows bordering our country lanes.
Please remember: Some berries are highly poisonous. Please do not eat any berry without being completely sure of it’s identity and also without being completely sure that the berry is safe to eat.
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A well-loved, juicy, edible berry found almost everywhere along hedgerows and rough areas in our countryside.
The blackberry is not a true berry, but is actually an aggregate fruit, made up of lots of little fruits called drupelets.
These beautiful, multi-coloured berries can be found strung like pretty necklaces, ornamenting the hedgerows.
Black bryony is actually a member of the yam family – and the only member of this family growing wild in Britain. Unlike yams, though, it is highly toxic.
Hanging in heavy clusters above the hedgerows, these purple-black berries are easy to identify.
Elderberry is used in a traditional herbal medicine as a winter immune booster. However, it is best not eaten raw, and the leaves of the tree should not be eaten at all.
Guelder rose berries can be identified by their thin, almost translucent skin and bright scarlet shine. Also, by their very distinctive usually three-lobed, reddish-green patterned leaves.
Like elderberry, guelder rose has also been used as a traditional herbal medicine and is highly prized by wildlife.
Next to blackberries and sloe, hawthorn berries, also called haws, must be one of the most commonly found berries in our hedgerows.
The small, deep red berries can be found growing all along the twigs and branches of these gnarled, lichen covered trees.
Holly is pretty unmistakable and one plant that does not need a description. Its tell-tale sharp, pointed, dark green leaves being recognised by almost every school child in this country.
However, a fact that may not be as well recognised, is the holly’s use as a battle ground for mistle thrushes. These birds love holly berries so much, they will fiercely guard their trees, driving away any other birds and wildlife.
Honeysuckle berries grow in bright, scarlet ball-shaped clusters at the ends of the branches. The paired leaves along the length of the branches also help in identifying this berry.
Honeysuckle is another valuable food source for winter wildlife – but beware, it is poisonous and therefore not valuable for humans.
Ivy berries are not easy to spot, as the black, gobular fruits hide among the tangled shadows of the hedge. but, once you have trained your eyes in, you will soon spot them everywhere!
While poisonous for humans, ivy berries provide a valuable, fat-rich food source for wildlife.
Wild rose berries, called hips are oval-shaped bright orange-red fruit found in small clusters at the ends of and dotted along the branches. They can be spotted throughout the autumn and add splashes of colour to the bare hedgerows in winter.
Once gathered as a rich, high-vitamin tonic during food rations in the world war, the hairs inside were also used by mischievous children to create an itching powder!
Rowan berries hang in thick clusters of yellow-orange or red coloured berries high up in the tree branches. This tree can be identified by its characteristic leaves – and often by the high concentration of lichen blanketing their trunks.
As a note for bird-watchers, this tree is high beloved of several visiting winter birds, including the fieldfare, waxwing and redwing.
Sloe or blackthorn are bluish coloured berries with a thick blue bloom found clustered along their spike-laden branches.
Used in the brewing of gin and wines, this tree was also once highly prized for creating excellent walking and dancing sticks for Irish and Morris dancing!
Wild plums can be found growing among our hedgerows too, and are always a treat to come across.
You may come across several different varieties, including damsons, bullace and greengages. Sometimes, even some cultivated plums grown from a cast away seed!
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