Do you love blueberries? If you do, then you are in esteemed company. I love blueberries and everyone I know with good taste loves them. Blueberries taste great and have plenty of vitamins and antioxidants that make them healthy. They are a great snack to have in the refrigerator.
However, many berries look like them but are not them. You can find them in your neighborhood or the wilderness. While many wild berries are harmless, some are toxic and should be avoided.
In this post, you will discover the most common blueberry lookalikes and how they look like. This information will be helpful in case you want to eat the berries in your neighborhood you suspect to be blueberries. Or in case you one day find yourself in the wilderness looking for berries to survive on.
What Do Wild Blueberries Look Like?
Wild blueberries are round and bluish-black. However, many wild berries look either bluish-black or black and can, therefore, be confused for blueberries.
The thing that distinguishes wild blueberries from lookalike wild berries is that on each berry there is a 5-point crown.
So if you see wild berries that are bluish-black and each of them has a 5-point crown on it, there is a 90 percent chance that what you are seeing are wild blueberries.
If you are confident that the berries you are seeing are wild blueberries but you think they are somewhat smaller than normal berries, you are right. Cultivated blueberries are usually bigger and juicier than wild blueberries because they are watered properly and are given all the nutrients they need to thrive.
With regards to the bushes or plants themselves, wild blueberries generally have thin branches, broad bright green leaves, and white or light pink flowers. While the leaves are broad, they have a sharp distinguishable tip. During the fall season, wild blueberry leaves usually turn from bright green to light red. So if you see a wild berry bush looking as described above, there is a very high likelihood that what you have in sight is a wild blueberry.
What Are The Common Types Of Blueberries?
Many people do not know that several blueberry types exist. While several types exist, only two types are common across the United States. The types are sour top and lowbush blueberries.
Sour top berries are bigger than lowbush berries. They can grow to about 24 inches in height. In contrast, lowbush berries only grow to a maximum height of 15 inches.
While sour top and lowbush bushes are different in terms of height, they both produce a berry with the same easily distinguishable blue color. There are only two small differences between sour top berries and lowbush berries.
First, while the color is the same, sour top berries are somewhat waxy in appearance in contrast to lowbush berries that are somewhat powdery in appearance.
The second difference is in the taste. Sour top blueberries taste a bit like tart and are less sweet than lowbush berries.
What Berries Look Closely Like Blueberries?
Now you know how wild blueberries look like and how to identify them. You also know how common blueberries look like and how to identify them including the differences between the two main types. In this section, you will discover all the blueberry lookalikes.
Pokeberries are products of pokeweed plants. They look tasty and very much like blueberries at first glance. However, on closer inspection, they look different from blueberries and they are easy to distinguish.
The worst thing about pokeberries is that they are poisonous to humans. Birds and many other animals can eat pokeberries to their fill. However, when a child eats just a few pokeberries, he or she can die. When an adult eats the same number of pokeberries, they can seriously fall sick. When an adult eats more than a few pokeberries, they can also die. Therefore, while pokeberries look tasty, they should be avoided.
To identify pokeberries, look at their clusters. If they look like grape clusters, are black, and have purple between them, they are pokeberries.
Nightshades look like blueberries. They can easily be confused for blackberries. This is because they are small, black, and look quite fruity and tasty.
Several nightshade types grow across North America. Some of them are truly fruity and tasty, while others have got chemicals that make them poisonous and unsuitable for consumption. Since it is not easy to distinguish between poisonous and non-poisonous nightshades, it is important to avoid eating all types of nightshades to avoid accidental poisoning.
As mentioned earlier in this post, wild blueberries are bluish-black and each of them has a 5-point crown. No nightshade has a crown on top of it. Therefore, if you see wild berries and they look like blueberries but none of them has a crown, you should know that what you are seeing is more of a cluster of nightshades than a bunch of blueberries.
Moreover, if you go ahead and taste a wild berry and it tastes unsweet or woody, this should be proof to you that it is less of a wild blueberry and more of a nightshade.
Unlike nightshades and pokeberries, bilberries are actually related to blueberries. For this reason, it comes as no surprise that bilberry bushes look like blueberry bushes. However, they are not blueberries.
Unlike nightshades and pokeberries, bilberries can actually be eaten and are grown for eating across the United States.
They are also grown to act as ground cover.
To confirm bilberry bushes, you simply have to look at the berries. If the berries are pea-sized and blackish or dark blue, then the bushes you are looking at are most likely bilberry bushes.
Bilberry bushes are commonly found in the wild in Northern California, Pacific Northwest, and in woodland gardens.
4. Salal Bushes
Salal bushes also look like blueberry bushes. They also grow in the same zones are blueberry bushes. For this reason, you can confuse them with blueberry bushes when you find them in the wild.
Salal bushes also produce bluish fruits that may be confused for blueberries.
Nevertheless, there are several differences between Salal bushes and blueberry bushes. First, Salal bushes are typically taller. Sometimes they get up to ten feet tall, especially when shaded by bigger trees. In contrast, blueberry bushes only get to about 20 inches in height.
Second, Salal bushes have leaves that are glossy and larger than the leaves on blueberry bushes.
Lastly, the fruits produced by Salal bushes are tasteless when compared to blueberries.
So while Salal bushes look like blueberry bushes, there are several ways you can tell they are not blueberry bushes and that their fruits are not blueberries.
5. Buckthorn bushes
Buckthorn bushes originate from Europe. However, they are now common in the wild across North America. The bushes look somewhat like blueberry bushes and their fruits somewhat like blueberries.
However, on closer inspection, it is easy to notice the differences between the two plants. First, buckthorn bushes typically grow much taller than blueberry bushes. They can grow to a height of 20 feet or more, while blueberry bushes generally do not go past 1.5 feet in height.
Second, buckthorn bushes have spiny branches that can be big. In contrast, blueberry bushes do not have spiny branches.
Lastly, the fruits produced by buckthorn bushes are not as sweet as blueberries, and they normally increase bowel movements. So avoid them like plague.
The good news is that you now know how to differentiate these bushes and blueberry bushes so you will probably never eat buckthorn bush fruits accidentally.
Wintergreens look like blueberry bushes. This is especially true in seasons other than winter. Because in winter, the green wintergreen leaves usually turn red in response to cold exposure. So in winter, wintergreens can be easily distinguished from blueberry plants.
The fruits produced by wintergreens are round and look like red blueberries. However, because red blueberries are very rare, when you see a blueberry plant lookalike with red round fruits, just know you are most likely looking at a wintergreen tree and not a blueberry bush. This is especially true if you are in the eastern United States and the temperate regions of the Western United States as Wintergreen is native to these regions.
To Wrap Up
Blueberries are delicious and perfect for eating as snacks and for making tasty and healthy smoothies. Fresh blueberries refresh and provide the body with energy, vitamins, and antioxidants. They are the perfect fruit to eat in the wilderness for survival.
While blueberries can be eaten in various ways and can help you survive in the wilderness, it is important to know that there are many blueberry fruit and plant lookalikes and that some of them are poisonous. Therefore, you knowing how to accurately identify blueberries and distinguish them from their lookalikes is important and could be the difference between life and death especially if you are in the wild and far from civilization.