FRUITING SEASON is beginning here in the perennial beds and shrubberies at A Way to Garden, but some of the early crop (like the red baneberry, Actaea rubra, above, a native woodlander) isn’t fit for eating…unless you’re a bird or mouse.
Birds have already decimated my shadbushes (Amelanchier species), whose fruits I have also eaten on occasion (not bad). And there’s no competing against the birds and chipmunks for the lowbush blueberries.
But with the baneberry (which has creamy April blooms, left) and with shrubby Daphne mezereum (fragrant purple flowers then, too) and some other showy creatures in their second glory right now, the fruit is poisonous to humans. The baneberry, apparently, is more fit for thrushes (including robins), sapsuckers and catbirds, along with chipmunks, mice and the lot. So I get to admire it, and then they get to eat it. Not a bad deal.
Arum italicum, which I don’t have, would also qualify: showy orangey-red summer fruit, but apparently toxic. Do you grow any perennials or small shrubs that have not just flowers but also colorful fruit? Of course soon the larger fruiting creatures like viburnums will be happening big-time.
And do you worry about whether plants in your garden are in fact “poisonous”? There are many lists out there offering information about what is and isn’t: Cornell’s is specifically geared to their effect on livestock, however, and the ASPCA’s is not surprisingly of plants pets are likely to interact with. Unless you have a better source, perhaps?