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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Tuesday - April 22, 2008

From: Paisley, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Identification of shrub with red berries in Florida
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I purchased a plant/shrub at a yard sale in central Fl. They told me it was a native plant. It looks like a holly with the red berries but the leaves are not like a holly. They were all over the yard so I am not for sure if they were started by clipping or by the berries. The gentleman that lived there had passed away, but his son-in-law said he had heard them refer to it as a "china berry". My question is it poisonous to animals or humans. Thanks

ANSWER:

From your description of the shrub that you bought, it doesn't sound like what I know as chinaberry (Melia azederach). Chinaberry is an invasive, non-native tree introduced from Asia. It is listed as poisonous in the Texas Toxic Plant database, especially the yellow berries.

The chinaberry, however, doesn't fit the description of the shrub/tree you bought. Here are a few native Florida shrubs/trees with red berries that might be your shrub. If you find your shrub below, you can check the following links to see if it is poisonous: Texas Toxic Plants, Cornell University Poisonous Plants Informational Database, Poisonous Plants of the Southern United States and Poisonous Plants of North Carolina. If you don't find your shrub among those listed below, please send us a photo and we will do our best to identify it. For information on sending photos, please visit the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants page and read the instructions in the lower right corner under "Plant Identification".

Ilex ambigua (Carolina holly)

Ilex cassine (dahoon), click here for a photo and more information.

Ilex decidua (possumhaw)

Ilex myrtifolia (myrtle dahoon)

Ilex verticillata (common winterberry)

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon)

Amelanchier arborea (common serviceberry), click here for photos and more information.

Photinia pyrifolia (red chokeberry)

Crataegus crus-galli (cockspur hawthorn), click here for photos and more information.

Crataegus marshallii (parsley hawthorn)

Crataegus phaenopyrum (Washington hawthorn)

Crataegus spathulata (littlehip hawthorn), click here for a photo and more information.

Crataegus viridis (green hawthorn)

Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac)

Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)

Frangula caroliniana (Carolina buckthorn)


Ilex ambigua

Ilex decidua

Ilex myrtifolia

Ilex verticillata

Ilex vomitoria

Photinia pyrifolia

Crataegus marshallii

Crataegus phaenopyrum

Crataegus viridis

Rhus aromatica

Cornus florida

Frangula caroliniana

 

 

 

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