White Bryony

©Amy Lewis

White Bryony

Scientific name: Bryonia dioica
A climbing plant of hedgerows and woodlands, White Bryony produces greenish flowers in summer and red, shiny berries in winter. It is a poisonous plant.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 4m

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to December

About

White Bryony is a climbing hedgerow and woodland edge plant that flowers between May and August. It produces red and shiny berries that can be seen, covered in frost over winter. Our only native member of the cucumber family, White Bryony is actually highly poisonous. The roots are particularly toxic and, despite their bitter taste, sometimes get eaten by cattle with fatal consequences.

How to identify

A climbing plant, White Bryony has curling tendrils and leaves with five lobes. It displays greenish, five-petalled flowers and orange-red berries.

Distribution

Mainly found in England, particularly in the south and east.

Did you know?

In times past, the roots of White Bryony were often 'passed off' as an entirely different species: Mandrake. A native of the Mediterranean, Mandrake was used as a painkiller and narcotic, and was also believed to be an aphrodisiac because its roots often looked like human figures (they supposedly shrieked as they were pulled from the earth). However, the real thing was hard to grow, so cheats would carve the roots of White Bryony into human-like forms and sell them.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.