Moonseed is a toxic plant known to have caused fatalities. I have included it in Forage Friday for the purpose identification and avoiding a fatal error.
Typically the way I choose a topic for Forage Friday is that I spot something as a random encounter and grab a snapshot of it for the post. I feel that this way I can give you a more organic experience and a more realistic expectation of what might be encountered during an outing.
What caught my eye in tonight’s feature image was the way the leaves are backlit by the sun filtering through the canopy. As a matter of protocol I run the photos trough Google Lens to double check the ID because anyone can make a mistake and guess wrong on the ID of a plant. Moonseed is a particularly bad one to do that with if it happens while looking for wild grapes. The shiny dark berries are attractive and could easily be mistaken for an edible.
As stated in the disclaimer there have been fatalities. The vine was once used as an ornamental that was planted on fences and such. The thick growth habit would help hide any defects in the fence and the berries are eaten by songbirds. Amazingly enough birds seem to be immune to a large number of toxic berries that would kill a human if eaten in a large enough quantity.
Two of the quickest ways to know if you have Moonseed or Grapes is that Grapes have forked tendrils that they cling to the structure with and Moonseed has no tendrils. Instead, Moonseed wraps itself around the structure. In the age of seedless grapes at the store some people may have never seen a grape seed. So the seed of a grape is ovoid. By contrast, the seed of a Moonseed berry is discoid and has a notch that gives it the appearance of a crescent moon and thus the name Moonseed. There are other factors like the lobes and the notches but these can be effected by soil conditions and sometimes be hard to distinguish.
The toxic substance in Moonseed is Dauricine which is being studied to see if it can be used in chemotherapy.
In spite of the known danger with Moonseed history says that the Cherokee did have some uses for it but my opinion is that there’s probably less risky options.
Moonseed is also a smaller berry than grapes however I still crush the grape to double check the shape of the seed when I find a new vine.
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