Sunday, November 18, 2012

Always be careful...

Earlier today I found a perfect example of the importance of using multiple sources when identifying plants. I stumbled across a small little article, nothing more than a picture and a paragraph or two of text. The picture was of some berries, and the text talked about how they were edible.

Pokeweed Berries
The problem? The berries in the picture were not whatever the article claimed they were, but instead were pokeweed berries, which are toxic. They're quite distinct looking berries - they grow in long clusters on a bright purple/pink stem. The unripe berries are green, and when ripe they are a deep dark blue. Some mistake them for blueberries or elder berries.

Now parts of the pokeweed plant are edible at certain times of the year, and/or with certain preparations (berries included), but the article made no note of this. The article itself kept referring to some other sort of berry, and gave no warnings.

Thankfully the article allowed comments, and many different people chimed in with the correct identification, warnings, and so on. It would seem at some later point an edit was added to the article, although it simply said that the picture might not be the berries named, and not much else...

While it seems the article wasn't meant to be a real guide to identification, this is why it's very important to seek out proper guides, and to use multiple sources and pictures.

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