Berries, soft fruits (berries and other)
Multilingual vocabulary. Introduction.

A usual conversation:

In front of some berries, it is common to have a conversation such as:

«-- Hey, that’s a raspberry!
- I don’t think so, it’s a blackberry...
- Really?»


«- Look at that, it’s a bilberry!
- It looks like a blueberry!»

To dispel any doubts, we offer you this small multilingual berries vocabulary. This vocabulary has been prepared to be easily consulted with your smartphone..

The name

Berries, soft fruits are small fruits, juicy, sweet or sour, and brightly coloured, generally red or dark (bluish, purple, black, etc.). Traditionally, they were not cultivated but gathered from trees and especially from shrubs. However, many of them have been cultivated since a long time ago.

Berries (edible) would be the appropriate term when the wild fruits fit for human consumption. Our informative compilation also includes similar fruits with an uninteresting food quality; some of them are partially or totally toxic, or even lethal.

Wild fruits (or wild berries) are the ones that correspond to plants which have not been planted by humans. Wild fruits and cultivated fruits (also named soft fruits) are treated jointly even if it is common that fruits coming from cultivated and selected plants are bigger.

Berries (soft fruits) also receive other names such as red fruits (although many of them have different colours) or small fruits (in contrast to bigger fruits like apples, pears, peaches, etc.). The meaning of each of the mentioned terms (berries, wild berries, wild fruits, soft fruits, red fruits and small fruits) reflect some features of a part of all of the fruits we are dealing with.

We should only bear in mind the different names in different languages:
(language codes: ISO 639)
català Fruits de bosc (baies i altres), fruits vermells
aranés < occitan Fruts de bòsc (granes e d'auti)
español Frutos de bosque (bayas y otros), frutos rojos
français Fruits rouges (baies et autres)
English Berries, soft fruits (berries and other)
Deutsch Wildfrüchte (Waldbeeren und andere)
italiano Frutti di bosco (bacche e altri)
português Frutos silvestres, frutos do bosque, frutos vermelhos (bagas e outros)
nederlands Bosvruchten (bessen en anderen)

It should be noted that, in everyday English, the term berry (pl. berries) has gone a long way and has widely surpassed the concept of berry in a botanical sense (simple fruit of fleshy mesocarp and endocarp). The equivalent German term Beere (pl. Beeren) behaves in a similar way.


We dismiss, for the moment, nuts such as hazelnuts, chestnuts or pine nuts that can also be found in a natural environment. We have included, however, traditional fruit trees introduced in ancient times (archeophytes) which can still sometimes be found near farmhouses and fields. Some examples would be jujube (Ziziphus jujuba), medlar (Mespilus germanica), serve (Sorbus domestica) and hackberry (Celtis australis).

Most of these wild berries are produced by shrubs, most of them quite low, such as bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus, 0.15-0.60 m), but some of them are or can be real trees, such as the strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), the jujube (Ziziphus jujuba), the holly (Ilex aquifolium), the hackberry (Celtis australis), mulberry trees (Morus spp.), the medlar (Mespilus germanica), the service tree (Sorbus domestica) and the yew (Taxus baccata)..

Some plants with these "berries" have an ornamental use, as Christmas green. The most common are::

  • Holly (Ilex aquifolium), small tree or shrub with pointed glossy leaves and small rounded red fruits (7-8 mm) which are characteristic of female specimens (this species is dioecious).
  • Butcher's broom, box holly (Ruscus aculeatus): low shrub with phylloclades (false leaves) tapering to a point and red berries (10-12 mm) at the female specimens
  • Mistletoe (Viscum album): hemi-parasitic shrub on some trees, with translucent berries (6- 10 mm), white or yellow. It is considered to be a symbol of good luck.
  • (By the way, the fruits of these 3 plants are toxic)
We must be vigilant in case that some of these species are protected or regulated in general (e.g. in Catalonia this affects holly, yew and Mediterranean fan palm) or in specific areas (natural parks or similar). Protection or regulation varies according to the laws of each country or each natural area.
Some of these fruits are usually cultivated for consumption, such as strawberries (Fragaria), mulberry trees (Morus), Peruvian cherry (Physalis peruviana), currant, gooseberry (Ribes), red raspberry and blackberry (Rubus), bilberries (Vaccinium) and jujube (Ziziphus jujuba). Other traditional fruits which were cultivated in the past have already mentioned.

Ways to consume them. Edibility and toxicity.

In the nature, there are many similar red-coloured fruits or of other attractive colours. However, we must be vigilant, since they may be highly toxic to humans but edible for some animals.
In some cases, certain parts of the fruits are highly toxic. Yew (Taxus baccata), for example, has a toxic seed surrounded by a bright red edible aril. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) may be used for fruit preserves, but it needs to be ripe; their unripe fruits, as well as their seeds, are toxic.


  • We must not consume fruits that we do not know well.
  • Edibility and toxicity data are only illustrative.
  • Anyone who eats these fruits (or other parts of the plant), does it under his responsibility.


Here we can talk knowledgeably about edible berries.


 Edible, excellent

 Edible, disliked, fad, tasteless

 In order to make them edible, some of these fruits need a previous preparation:

  • - Bletting (overmaturation): the serve (Sorbus domestica) and the medlar fruit (Mespilus germanica; ca: nespla) [-→NOTE] have to be consumed when they have nearly gone off, when they are bletted. Bletting is done on top of straw or naturally, following a hard frost.
  • - To remove irritating hairs: rose hip (Rosa sp.).
NOTE (on nespla, nespra): the loquat or Japanese medlar fruit is nowadays a much more common fruit. It is consumed fresh. It is the fruit of the planted tree Japanese medlar (Eriobotrya japonica; ca: nespra (or nispro, micaco, etc.).

 Some of these fruits can only be consumed with caution, i.e. only in small quantities, such as those of winter cherry (Physalis alkekengi), bog bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum) and guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus). Eating them frequently or in large quantities can have toxic effects and cause vomiting or diarrhoea.


Also the consumption of unripe fruit of certain plants may have toxic effects, such as fruits of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) and others.

In addition to eating these fruits fresh, they may be consumed converted into: 

 fruit preserves (jams, marmalades, etc.)  

 Juices or syrups

 Spirits and liqueurs, such as those obtained by the distillation of fermented fruit juice (kirsch of wild cherries) or by using the fruit as a flavouring (gin with juniper, patxaran with sloes, crème de cassis with blackcurrant and mirto, liqueur with myrtle berries). 

They may also have specific medicinal uses, although we will only deal with the most common food consumption here.

Types of fruits

From a botanical point of view, these fruits (and infrutescences and strobilus) are of various kinds:

  • Fruit (botanical point of view): Botanical genus (name of the fruit)
  • Berry and pseudoberry: Arbutus (strawberry tree’s fruit), Arctostaphylos (bearberry), Myrtus (myrtle), Physalis (winter cherry, Peruvian cherry), Ribes (currants, gooseberries), Ruscus (butcher's-broom), Sambucus (elderberries, danewort), Vaccinium (blueberries, bilberries), Viscum (mistletoe).
  • Drupe: Celtis (hackberry), Chamaerops (Mediterranean fan palm), Ilex (holly berry), Prunus (cherry, sloe), Viburnum (guelder-rose), Ziziphus (jujube).
  • Polidrupe: Morus (mulberries), Rubus (red raspberry and blackberries).
  • False fruit, pseudocarp: Fragaria (< Potentilla; strawberries), Hippophae (sea-buckthorn; surrounded by fleshy calyx).
  • Rose hip, cynarrhodon: Rosa (rose hip)
  • Galbulus (< strobilus): Juniperus (juniper berry)
  • Pome: Crataegus (azarole, haw), Mespilus (medlar), Sorbus (rowan-berry, serve).
  • Toxic seed surrounded by an edible aril, strobilus with the appearance of drupe: Taxus (yew berry).

Genus, family, groups

In order to make groups, the following aspects have been added:

  • The botanical genus.
  • The botanical family (left in Latin, with the desire of multilingualism). Suffixes or endings: (la, en, de, nl) -aceae;   (ca) -àcies;   (aran) -acèes;   (es, pt) -áceas;  (fr) - acées;   (it) -acee.

  • Families,suffixes or endings according to languages
    [ISO 639] lingua    
    la latina -aceae Familia
    ca català -àcies Família
    aran < oc aranés < occitan -acèes Familha
    es español -áceas Familia
    fr français -acées Famille
    en English -aceae Family
    de Deutsch -aceae Familie (...gewächse)
    it italiano -acee Famiglia
    pt português -áceas Família
    nl nederlands -aceae Familie (...familie)
  • Group of fruits with similar characteristics.

Scientific names, synonyms. Index of genera and families

Scientific names: Normally, only the current scientific name is indicated. In a few cases, synonymous names have been added when they are being used by some authors as the preferred name.
Such is the case of:
Fragaria < Potentilla
Hippophae rhamnoides = Elaeagnus rhamnoides
Mespilus germanica = Crataegus germanica

Multilingual cards


 excellent edible fruit.

 edible fruit but with caution.

 fruit with a highly toxic part.




Idea (continguts) Eduard Parés
Development (desenvolupament) Jordi Gil
(correcció) Miquel Rius
(traduccion) Verònica Barès (Conselh Generau d'Aran)
(traducción) E. Parés, Josep Blanch
(traduction) Mercè Espinosa
(translation) Núria de Rocafiguera
Fotografies, Pictures (fotos) Ricard Llerins, Margarida Montanyà, E. Parés, Josep M. Vives
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