Is Pigeonberry Poisonous? Everything You Need to Know

Is pigeonberry poisonous? That is a question that many people have been asking lately, and understandably so. The pigeonberry is a wild plant that is found in many parts of the United States. While some people consider it to be a tasty snack, others warn that the pigeonberry may be poisonous to humans and animals alike. So, what is the truth behind this mysterious plant?

First of all, it’s important to note that the pigeonberry is also known as the pokeberry. This is because the plant produces small, purple berries that resemble tiny grapes. While some people enjoy eating these berries, others warn that they may be toxic if consumed in large quantities. This has led many people to wonder: is pigeonberry poisonous?

To answer this question, we need to look at the scientific evidence. While there have been reports of people becoming ill after eating pigeonberries, there is not enough research to definitively say whether or not the plant is poisonous. Some experts believe that the berries contain toxic substances, while others argue that they are perfectly safe to eat in small quantities. So, for now, the answer to the question of whether or not pigeonberries are poisonous remains somewhat of a mystery.

Identification of Pigeonberry Plant

Pigeonberry, also known as Rivina humilis, is a small perennial shrub that belongs to the Pokeweed family. The plant usually grows to a height of 1-2 feet and is commonly found in tropical regions of North and South America.

The plant is also commonly known as bloodberry, rouge plant, coralberry, and rockberry. The name ‘pigeonberry’ is derived from the fact that the fruit of the plant is a favorite food of pigeons and other birds.

  • The leaves of the pigeonberry plant are simple and oblong in shape, measuring about 2-4 inches in length and 1-2 inches in width.
  • The flowers of the pigeonberry plant are small and white, usually growing in clusters at the end of the stem.
  • The fruit of the pigeonberry plant is a red or purple berry that measures about a quarter of an inch in diameter. The fruit is edible but has a sour taste.

The pigeonberry plant can be easily identified by its distinctive red or purple berries. These berries are round in shape and grow in clusters at the end of the stem. The leaves of the plant are also easy to recognize due to their oblong shape and slightly wavy edges.

The plant is often used as an ornamental plant in gardens due to its attractive berries and foliage. However, it is important to note that the berries of the pigeonberry plant are not edible for humans and can be toxic if ingested in large quantities.

Common Name: Pigeonberry
Scientific Name: Rivina humilis
Family: Phytolaccaceae (Pokeweed family)
Habitat: Tropical regions of North and South America
Height: 1-2 feet
Flowers: Small and white, growing in clusters at the end of the stem
Fruit: Red or purple berry that measures about a quarter of an inch in diameter

Overall, the pigeonberry plant is easy to identify due to its distinctive berries and foliage. However, it is important to remember that the plant should not be consumed by humans due to the potential for toxicity.

Potential Toxicity of Pigeonberry

While pigeonberry is mostly known for its medicinal benefits, it is important to consider its potential toxicity as well. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Alkaloids: Pigeonberry contains several alkaloids that may cause toxicity in large amounts. These include harman, harmine, harmalol, harmaline, and harmol. These compounds can cause a range of symptoms, including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, tremors, and even convulsions.
  • Traditional Use: Pigeonberry has been traditionally used in South America and the Caribbean as a hallucinogen, which suggests that it may have psychoactive properties. However, due to its potential toxicity, it is not recommended as a recreational drug.
  • Precautions: Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid pigeonberry due to its potential toxicity. Additionally, those with liver or kidney problems should also avoid pigeonberry, as it may exacerbate these conditions.

To better understand the potential toxicity of pigeonberry, here is a table summarizing the alkaloid content in pigeonberry:

Alkaloid Content (mg/100g)
Harman 8.6
Harmine 23.3
Harmalol 2.7
Harmaline 26.0
Harmol 2.1

While pigeonberry can be beneficial in certain contexts, it is important to be aware of its potential toxicity and exercise caution when using it.

Signs and Symptoms of Pigeonberry Poisoning

Pigeonberry is a type of plant that is commonly found in North America. While it is not highly toxic, it can cause poisoning if ingested in large quantities. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of pigeonberry poisoning so that you can seek medical attention promptly if needed.

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea

If you or someone you know has ingested pigeonberry and is experiencing these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. While these symptoms are typically not life-threatening, they can be uncomfortable and may require treatment to alleviate.

In more severe cases of pigeonberry poisoning, other symptoms may be present, including:

  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Low blood pressure
  • Respiratory distress

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms after ingesting pigeonberry, it is imperative to seek emergency medical attention immediately. These symptoms can be life-threatening and require prompt treatment to ensure the best possible outcome.

To avoid pigeonberry poisoning, it is best to avoid ingesting the plant altogether. If you are unsure whether a plant is pigeonberry or not, it is recommended to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming it.

Severity of Symptoms Treatment
Mild (nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea) Treatment is typically supportive and focused on relieving symptoms. It may include anti-nausea medication, fluids, and rest.
Moderate (confusion, convulsions, low blood pressure) Treatment may include hospitalization for monitoring and supportive care, including intravenous fluids and medications to control seizures and blood pressure.
Severe (respiratory distress) Treatment may include intubation and mechanical ventilation to ensure adequate oxygenation, as well as aggressive supportive care to stabilize blood pressure and heart function.

It is important to note that if you or someone you know has ingested pigeonberry, it is always best to seek medical attention to determine the severity of the poisoning and to receive appropriate treatment.

Treating Pigeonberry Poisoning

If you suspect that you or someone else has ingested pigeonberry, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. Time is of the essence, and the quicker you get treatment, the better the chances of avoiding serious complications.

  • Induce vomiting: If the ingestion happened recently, inducing vomiting can help eliminate some of the toxins from the system. However, vomiting should only be induced under medical supervision, and it’s not recommended if the person is unconscious.
  • Activated charcoal: Medical professionals may administer activated charcoal to help absorb the toxins and prevent them from being absorbed by the body. It’s most effective when given within the first hour of ingestion.
  • IV fluids: In severe cases, the person may require intravenous fluids to help maintain their fluid levels and prevent dehydration.

If you live in an area where pigeonberry is abundant or have it growing in your garden, take precautions to avoid accidental ingestion. Educate yourself and your family on the dangerous side effects of consuming this plant and take measures to keep it out of reach.

It’s always important to keep emergency numbers handy and to seek immediate medical attention if you or someone else ingests pigeonberry or exhibits any signs of poisoning.

Pigeonberry Poisoning Symptoms Treatment Options
Abdominal pain and cramping Induce vomiting, activated charcoal, IV fluids
Nausea and vomiting Induce vomiting, activated charcoal, IV fluids
Diarrhea Induce vomiting, activated charcoal, IV fluids
Difficulty breathing Seek immediate medical attention
Confusion or disorientation Seek immediate medical attention
Seizures Seek immediate medical attention

Remember, prevention is always better than cure, so take precautions to avoid pigeonberry poisoning altogether.

Safe Handling and Disposal of Pigeonberry Plants

As with any potentially poisonous plant, it’s important to handle and dispose of pigeonberry plants in a safe and responsible manner. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • When handling pigeonberry plants, wear gloves and long sleeves to minimize skin contact.
  • After handling the plants, wash your hands and any tools or containers used in the process with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your face or mouth while handling pigeonberry plants.

If you need to dispose of pigeonberry plants, the safest method is to carefully bag them and place them in the trash. Do not compost or burn the plants, as this could release toxins into the air and soil.

If you suspect that a person or animal has ingested pigeonberry plant material, seek medical attention immediately. It’s also a good idea to bring a sample of the plant with you to the hospital or veterinarian, as this can help medical professionals identify the specific toxin involved.

Signs of Poisoning

If you or someone you know has come into contact with pigeonberry plants and are experiencing symptoms of poisoning, seek medical attention right away. Symptoms may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion or dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Irregular heartbeats

It’s also important to note that children and pets may be more susceptible to the effects of pigeonberry plant toxins, due to their smaller size and different metabolism.

Treating Poisoning

There is no specific antidote for pigeonberry plant poisoning, as the specific toxins involved can vary depending on the plant and the part of the plant ingested. Treatment typically involves managing symptoms and providing supportive care, such as:

  • Fluids and electrolytes to treat dehydration
  • Medications to control nausea and vomiting
  • Anti-seizure medications to prevent seizures
  • Oxygen therapy to support breathing
  • Cardiac support, such as medications to regulate heart rate and blood pressure


Pigeonberry plants can contain toxins that are potentially harmful to humans and animals. If you come into contact with these plants, be sure to handle and dispose of them carefully, and seek medical attention immediately if you suspect poisoning. With proper precautions, you can enjoy your garden and outdoor spaces while keeping yourself and your loved ones safe.

Toxicity Level Symptoms Treatment
Mild Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea Fluids, anti-nausea medication
Moderate Abdominal pain, confusion, irregular heartbeat Hospitalization, cardiac or respiratory support
Severe Seizures, difficulty breathing Intensive care, close monitoring

This table summarizes the potential toxicity levels of pigeonberry plant exposure, as well as common symptoms and treatments. Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution when handling potentially harmful plants.

Native Range and Habitat of Pigeonberry

Pigeonberry (Rivina humilis) is a flowering plant species of the family Phytolaccaceae, commonly known as baby pepper or rouge plant, and is native to southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and South America. It is a small perennial shrub that can grow up to 1 meter tall and 2 meters wide, with slender branches that are light green to brown in color, and oval-shaped dark green leaves that are 3-9 cm long.

The plant usually grows in shaded and moist areas, such as forests, woodlands, scrublands, and along stream banks, and can tolerate a wide range of soil types. The pigeonberry plant is naturally found in the states of Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and other southeastern states in the US, as well as in many countries in Central and South America, such as Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil.

Pigeonberry Habitat Characteristics

  • The pigeonberry plant prefers shaded and humid environments.
  • It can grow in a variety of soils, including acidic and alkaline soils.
  • The plant is typically found in forests, woodlands, scrublands, and near streams or rivers.
  • It can also be found in residential gardens and landscaping.

Uses of Pigeonberry in Native Range

Pigeonberry has been used in traditional medicine by various indigenous communities in its native range for centuries. The plant’s leaves, fruits, and roots are all used for medicinal purposes, particularly for the treatment of skin conditions, wounds, infections, respiratory issues, and headaches. The crushed leaves and berries can also be applied topically to relieve itching and pain caused by insect bites or other skin irritations.

The plant also has ornamental uses, and is commonly used in residential and commercial landscaping. Its attractive pinkish-red or white berries provide an interesting contrast to green foliage, and can be used in floral arrangements or as a dye for textiles and other materials.

Threats to the Pigeonberry Habitat

Despite its natural hardiness, pigeonberry habitat is threatened by various human activities, such as urbanization, deforestation, and agriculture, which can disrupt the plant’s natural habitats and cause habitat fragmentation. This fragmentation can lead to genetic isolation, reduced reproductive success, and a decline in population numbers.

Threats Impact on Pigeonberry Habitat
Urbanization Loss of natural habitat due to infrastructure development and land use change.
Deforestation Loss of forest and woodland habitats, which are important for the survival of pigeonberry.
Agriculture Conversion of natural habitats to farmland can result in habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation.

Conservation efforts, such as habitat restoration, reforestation, and protected area management, are needed to preserve and protect pigeonberry habitat from ongoing threats and ensure the long-term survival of this important plant species.

Other Potential Risks Associated with Pigeonberry Consumption

While pigeonberry is not considered to be poisonous for human consumption, there are other potential risks to be aware of before incorporating it into your diet.

  • Allergic Reactions: Some people may experience an allergic reaction to pigeonberry, especially if they are allergic to other members of the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, potatoes, or peppers.
  • Interference with Medications: Pigeonberry may interact with certain medications, especially those used to treat diabetes or high blood pressure. If you are taking any prescription medications, it is important to talk to your doctor before adding pigeonberry to your diet.
  • Overconsumption: While pigeonberry is a nutritious food, overconsumption can lead to digestive issues such as diarrhea or upset stomach. It is important to consume pigeonberry in moderation to avoid any adverse effects.

If you are considering adding pigeonberry to your diet, it is important to be aware of these potential risks and to consult with your doctor if you have any concerns.

Additionally, it is important to only consume pigeonberry that has been properly identified, as there are many other plants that resemble pigeonberry but may be toxic. The table below lists some common plants that resemble pigeonberry:

Plant Name Similarities to Pigeonberry Toxicity
Virginia creeper Similar shape and color of leaves Mildly toxic
Greenbrier Vine-like growth pattern Can cause skin irritation but not toxic if ingested
Poison ivy Similar shape and color of leaves Highly toxic

By being aware of these potential risks and taking the necessary precautions, you can safely enjoy the nutritional benefits of pigeonberry as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

FAQs about Pigeonberry Poisoning

1. Is pigeonberry poisonous to humans?
Yes, the berries contain toxins that can cause gastrointestinal distress and other symptoms if ingested in large quantities.

2. What are the symptoms of pigeonberry poisoning?
Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and headache.

3. Can pigeonberry poisoning be fatal?
While rare, severe cases of pigeonberry poisoning can be fatal. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect poisoning.

4. Are all parts of the pigeonberry plant poisonous?
No, only the berries contain toxins. However, it is recommended to avoid ingesting any part of the plant as a precaution.

5. Can pets be affected by pigeonberry poisoning?
Yes, pets can experience similar symptoms if they ingest pigeonberries. Keep pets away from the plant and seek veterinary care if necessary.

6. How can pigeonberry poisoning be treated?
Treatment may involve inducing vomiting, administering activated charcoal, and symptomatic care for gastrointestinal distress.

7. What should I do if I think I have ingested pigeonberries?
Contact your local poison control center or seek medical attention immediately if you experience any symptoms of poisoning.

Thanks for Reading!

We hope that this article has provided valuable information about pigeonberry poisoning and its potential risks. Remember to always be cautious around unfamiliar plants and seek medical attention if you suspect poisoning. Thank you for reading and please visit again soon for more informative articles.