Will this plant kill my toddler?
August 5, 2012 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Is this plant toxic?

Need help identifying a plant we noticed on our property a few weeks ago. Our 20-month-old has learned to help himself to thimble berries and blackberries in this area, so I need to know if I should pull this to prevent these berries from being accidentally ingested.

Location: Scappoose, Oregon (near Portland).

Video because I can't figure out how to link from the Flickr app. Sorry about the screaming toddler in the background,

Also, on my phone so I can't link.


Thanks for looking!
posted by rabbitrabbit to Home & Garden (16 answers total)
Looks like Fairy Bell berries.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:23 PM on August 5, 2012

Fairy Bell berries are apparently edible but mealy and tasteless.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:29 PM on August 5, 2012

The berries in the Fairy Bell link do not look to me like the ones in the video. As well the leaves look completely different. My take would be assume toxicity until you know for certain that they're not.
posted by Splunge at 3:19 PM on August 5, 2012

I would call my local Cooperative Extension Service. Usually they're well-versed on plants you may find in your area. They may ask you to bring in a sample of the plant and berries in a sealed plastic bag (or they may request pictures). They also have a cadre of dedicated Master Gardener volunteers who may be able to help you. http://extension.oregonstate.edu/ I grew up in a family that foraged widely for our food, but we were in Appalachia, so I don't know your area plants, but I don't recognize that particular berry as anything I was ever encouraged to eat. So check with your local pros! Here in FL, there's no charge for this kind of consultation at the Extension. Good luck!
posted by theplotchickens at 5:29 PM on August 5, 2012

I can't tell what they are but the first thing that popped into my head was that they look a fair bit like semi-ripe deadly nightshade berries which I used to see all the time in the Northeast. They probably aren't, but that was the first thing that came to mind.

I am hearing a very stern, motherly voice in my head right now that is telling me that toddlers should not be allowed to pick berries that they find in the woods, and certainly not berries of unknown identity. This voice is having a big fight right now with the other one that tells me not to comment on other peoples' parenting; it is winning. The Don't Pick Strange Berries injunction is one of the more bright-line parental edicts laid down during my rather woodsy childhood.
posted by Scientist at 5:30 PM on August 5, 2012

It's not a nightshade. It's not a fairy bell. The name is escaping me, but I'll come back when I can look it up. (Also, your video is making me kind of seasick. If you can update with a photo, it would make me so happy.)
posted by purpleclover at 5:51 PM on August 5, 2012

Wait, watching the video again, I can't really tell what plant those fruits are attached to. It's hard to ID plants by fruit.
posted by purpleclover at 6:24 PM on August 5, 2012

I don't know what it is, and I'm pretty well-versed in edible Pacific Northwest berries. If it's not edible, there's a good chance it would be toxic - especially to a toddler.

Pull it up. Why risk it?
posted by ErikaB at 9:16 PM on August 5, 2012

Before you pull it up, make sure even touching it won't cause problems.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:38 PM on August 5, 2012

Hmm, could you give an idea of how tall these plants are, perhaps a photo of the foliage? Agree with the above that it does not look like a nightshade.
posted by Wavelet at 9:40 PM on August 5, 2012

OK, now that I'm on a computer, here is a picture.

It's hard to tell how tall the plant is because that area is such a mess of foliage (don't know why that's sideways, it's correctly oriented on my computer and I tried uploading it twice and it keeps coming out that way). This is also why it would be hard to just remove this plant, and I want to know what I'm dealing with since it would probably take an entire week's worth of naptimes to get rid of it. But all the orange berries are below eye level, if that helps.

Scientist: right, I forgot how people make assumptions about other people's parenting here, my fault for not outlining what we do. He is not allowed to pick berries that he finds in the woods. He has observed that mommy and daddy pick the thimble berries and blackberries and he knows that they are tasty, and he, being a toddler, wants to pick the thimbleberries and blackberries too. He is never not watched closely outside. He is told NO! NOT BERRIES! every time he so much as looks sideways at these orange things. But toddlers are known for not listening and I need to know whether this is enough, and if he would be OK if we end up having to fish one out of his mouth while yelling NO! or if we need to do more than that (i.e. removal). I'm guessing that your parents probably had a similar approach when you were 20 months old. In other words, we ARE teaching him not to just pick any old berry in the woods. Thanks for your concern.

I'll contact extension today, good call. Plant identification guides are getting me absolutely nowhere.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:42 AM on August 6, 2012

And I just realized the first picture is sideways too, wtf? The leaves of the plant in question run through the middle of that picture.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:44 AM on August 6, 2012

Oh, hey, remember how I said they weren't fairy bells? I was completely wrong.

Hooker's fairy bell. There's a map of its range here.

Apologies to weapons-grade pandemonium.
posted by purpleclover at 1:44 PM on August 6, 2012

Also, having been totally wrong once in this thread already, it could be something else in the same genus. There seem to be at least four naturally occurring varieties of Hooker's fairy bell. My guess is it's this one: Prosartes hookeri var. oregana, aka Oregon drops of gold.
posted by purpleclover at 2:15 PM on August 6, 2012

Cool, thanks. I forgot I was having lunch today with a friend who has a forestry degree, she thinks it might be a false Solomon's seal, though I think the Hooker's Fairy Bell looks closer.

Which, if it's either of those things, won't kill him. Still waiting to hear back from the Columbia County extension office, though, so we'll see what they say. There are SO MANY PLANTS in the world!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:19 PM on August 6, 2012

Update: the extension forester thinks it's Smith's Fairy Bells.

That picture does look really close, though so does the Oregon Drops of Gold. At any rate, yeah, fairy bells! First answer = best answer! Thanks guys.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:43 AM on August 7, 2012

« Older What's this song from the Olympics?   |   Family Lawltimore Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.