Trees and bushes with red berries are eye-catchers in autumn. Many of these plants have a dual function, being edible or an important source of winter food for various wildlife.

Shrubs with edible berries

Edible shrubs have the advantage that they can be used as privacy screens, for example, and you can harvest the fruits at the same time. With some plants, however, it takes a lot of effort to make something edible out of them. But then there is still the option of leaving them to the birds or other wildlife that visit the garden in the fall and winter. In winter, berries are also an important addition to birdseed for many wild animals, for example, as they still contain many vitamins.

True Berberitze (Berberis vulgaris):

  • Location: sunny to semi-shady
  • Soil: calcareous, dry to moderately moist
  • Fruits: small oblong fruits grouped in racemes
  • Leaves: deciduous, attractive reddish coloring in autumn
Note: There are also cultivars of the barberry that are characterized by red foliage all year round. These cultivated forms are not edible.

Common wolfberry (Lycium barbarum):

  • Location: sunny to semi-shady
  • Soil: humic and rich in nutrients, absolutely intolerant of salt and heavy metals
  • fruits: oblong single fruits
  • leaves: deciduous

The red fruits of the wolfberry are also known as goji berries. The dried berries can be used for muesli, for example, or as a healthy snack. The goji berry is mainly used in Asian cuisine, where it is a component of sweet and sour dishes. Those who like to try exotic dishes can add a few dried wolfberry fruits to well-known classics. Chicken or beef soups, for example, are suitable and they are a good addition to stocks of game dishes.

Großfrüchtige Moosbeere (Vaccinium macrocarpon):

  • Location: sunny
  • Soil: low in lime, rich in nutrients
  • Fruits: medium-sized round single berries
  • Leaves: Evergreen, but often turns reddish-brown in autumn

The large-fruited cranberry is better known under the name “cranberry”. It is becoming increasingly popular as a berry fruit in the garden. It delivers high yields and can be processed into juice or jam, for example.

Dog-Rose (Rosa canina):

  • Location: sunny to shady
  • Soil: undemanding
  • Fruits: medium fruits
  • Leaves: deciduous, yellowish autumn colour

The fruits of the dog rose are called rose hips. Although collecting through the rose’s spikes is not entirely easy, it is well worth the effort. The rose hips can be made into jam and the dried fruits give fruit teas a fresh aroma.

Preiselbeere (Vaccinium vitis-idaea):

  • Location: sunny to shady
  • Soil: moist, fresh, humic, permeable, slightly acidic
  • Fruits: medium-sized round single berries grouped in compact clusters
  • Leaves: evergreen

The cranberry is rarely found in the garden, as harvesting the fruit is time-consuming. There is a special picking comb, which allows you to harvest larger quantities in a short time, otherwise you only have to pick the individual berries by hand. Compared to other berry bushes, even the cultivars have low yields. Wild varieties remain small in height and at best grow into dwarf shrubs. Cultivated varieties can reach a height of 80 cm and more.

Red currant (Ribes rubrum):

  • Location: preferably sunny, maximum partial shade
  • Soil: nutritious and humic, moist
  • Fruits: Medium rounded berries grouped in clusters
  • leaves: deciduous

The currant has been cultivated as a crop since around the 15th century. There are now numerous varieties, some of which are even listed as separate species such as the rock currant. The jam or jelly made from it is rarely eaten as breakfast jam, but mainly used for desserts such as cakes or pastries.

Red elder (Sambucus racemosa):

  • Location: semi-shady to shady
  • Soil: low in lime, rich in nutrients, but permeable with a high proportion of clay or sand
  • Fruits: small rounded berries grouped in racemes
  • leaves: deciduous

While elderberry is sometimes classified as poisonous, it is a popular wild fruit when processed properly. Only the juice obtained by steam extraction is used and processed into juices or jellies.

Trees with edible berries

There are numerous trees that have fruits that look like red berries. Most of these are wild plants, but they have long since made their way into the garden as attractive plants with a dual use option.

Eberesche (Sorbus aucuparia):

  • Location: sunny to semi-shady
  • Soil: well drained, fresh
  • Fruits: medium-sized round fruits grouped in large pseudo umbels, often orange to red in color
  • Leaves: deciduous, grey-green color

The mountain ash is now also available as a cultivated form, which is even better tolerated than wild forms. The fruit must be cooked before it can be eaten. Cultivated forms also have the advantage that they are significantly more productive than the wild forms, which are very popular with birds.

Kirschpflaume (Prunus cerasifera):

  • Location: sunny to semi-shady
  • Soil: humic, rich in nutrients
  • Fruits: Medium-sized, oval fruits on a long stalk, often also red-yellow in color
  • leaves: deciduous

Vogelkirsche (Prunus avium):

  • Location: sunny to semi-shady
  • Soil: humic, nutritious, permeable
  • Fruits: medium-sized round single berries, often dark red to blood-red in colour
  • Leaves: deciduous, autumn colors in yellow, orange and red

The bird cherry or wild cherry is usually a result of a cultivated cherry that a bird has eaten. In nature, the trees are typically found along forest edges or clearings, where the birds perch to quietly eat the pulp.

Weißdorn (Crataegus monogyna):

  • Location: sunny to semi-shady
  • Soil: undemanding, prefers calcareous soils
  • Fruits: small berries that occasionally form racemes, dark red to often almost black-red in color
  • Leaves: deciduous

ornamental shrubs

A shrub does not always have to be edible for humans, often inedible plants are edible for wild animals and are an important source of food for them.

European holly (Ilex aquifolium):

  • Location: semi-shady to shady
  • Soil: undemanding
  • Fruits: small red single berries
  • Leaves: evergreen

The red fruits of the holly stay on the trees well into winter, when they are used as food for birds. They are also the only ones to whom the toxins in holly fruit are not dangerous. For other animals, on the other hand, even a few single berries can lead to severe poisoning. The holly with its fruit is often used as a decoration at Christmas, but should not be reached by children or pets due to the poisonous fruit.

Snowball (Viburnum opulus):

  • Location: sunny to semi-shady
  • Soil: fresh, nutritious, slightly acidic
  • Fruits: small shiny berries that form umbels, older berries smell unpleasantly sour
  • Leaves: deciduous, attractive reddish autumn colour

Pfaffenhütchen (Euonymus europaeus):

  • Location: sunny to semi-shady
  • Soil: undemanding, prefers calcareous soils
  • Fruits: four-part infructescence with a reddish shell containing orange-colored seeds
  • Leaves: deciduous, bright yellowish to reddish autumn colour

Zwergmispel (Cotoneaster):

  • Location: sunny to semi-shady
  • Soil: well drained, slightly acidic
  • Fruits: many round berries attached directly to the branch
  • leaves: deciduous

Few shrubs are as popular in the garden as the cotoneaster. This is mainly due to the fact that it tolerates drought very well and is an eye-catcher in every garden in autumn due to its lush berries. The fruits are readily eaten by birds, which helps spread them.

ornamental trees

There are only a few trees with red berries that only have an ornamental value. However, many shrubs can also be raised into a tree with a little effort. This is the case, for example, with the euonymus.

Yew (Taxus baccata):

  • Location: sunny to shady
  • Soil: undemanding, permeable, no waterlogging
  • Fruits: single round berries, the fruit coating can be easily crushed
  • Leaves: evergreen

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