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Archive for July 10, 2011

Red Baneberry

Red baneberry, Actaea rubra, can be found growing in moist, shady woodlands, or even roadsides, where it is often not noticed until its red berries have formed in mid-summer.  Although the berries are poisonous to humans, they are not to birds, which are the primary disperser of baneberry seeds.  In addition to robins, brown thrashers, catbirds, sapsuckers and grouse, small mammals such as chipmunks, voles, squirrels and nice eat the fruit.  Several species of birds that consume baneberry eat the fruit but void the seeds, while some of the small mammals remove and eat the seeds leaving  the pulp.  You may be familiar with a common relative, white baneberry, which produces white berries that are referred to as “doll’s eyes.” Native Americans used the juice from the fruits of various baneberry species to poison their arrows.