Small red fruit that grows on shrubs or trees can add a pop of color to any landscape or garden. Shrubs or trees with edible red berries can also work to give you a tart or sweet addition to your dishes, depending on the cultivar. Who can’t resist being able to walk outside and pluck tard red currants, sweet red cherries, or juicy red gooseberries from their tree or shrubs and eat them? However, not all small red fruits are edible, and it’s critical that you can tell the difference between the ones that are safe to eat and the ones that are poisonous.
There are several reasons why you’d have bushes and trees in your yard that produce a host of small red fruit. Very often, the colorful berries appear during the winter months when your yard or garden lacks color. The bright red hue will contrast with darker green foliage and help brighten up your space.
Another reason to have small red fruit in your garden is that they can be very healthy. Apart from having a great taste, red berries or fruit that you can eat come packed with antioxidants. You can eat them straight from your tree or bush or use them in desserts, main dishes, or salads.
You may also come across small red fruits when you take a walk in the forest, woods, or other open spaces. It’s important to note that even though some types of small red fruit are safe to eat, some are very poisonous. So, you need to be able to identify exactly which fruit you’re looking at before you eat them. If you have any doubts, you’ll want to avoid eating them.
We’re going to break down 21 bushes, trees, and plants with small red fruit. Descriptions and pictures will help you identify these plants with their small red fruit to ensure you’re safe when you eat them.
1. American Bittersweet
The American Bittersweet plants produce cherries. This is actually a pretty perennial vine that grows by wrapping around any nearby shrubs or trees for support. This is also a medicinal plant with a long history of being used to help with body issues and ailments like arthritis, fluid retention, liver disorders, and menstrual disorders. It was popular to make tea using the plant’s bark, and you’ll see smaller white flowers when it blooms in the shape of stars. Once they fade, the small red fruit will appear in capsule shapes that can also be yellow-tinged. Eventually, green fruits form that turn a bright red as they get ripe.
2. Buffalo Berry
Buffalo berry is a very dark red fruit that has a sour taste with a very rough texture. The clusters of dark red berries have tiny white spots on them to make them easy to identify, and it grows very thickly on the buffaloberry plant. This is a larger deciduous shrub that gets between 8 and 10 feet tall at full maturity. It’s popular to use the sour-tasting small red fruit to make jams, jellies, or pies. These shrubs are easy to identify due to their attractive foliage with oblong, narrow leaves, pea-sized fruit, and thorny branches.
The green leaves on this plant contrast with the red-colored fruit, and this makes this thicket-forming plant a pretty security hedge, background plant, or specimen plant. Another attractive bush with small red fruit is the silver buffaloberry. It offers greenish-silver leaves that get up to two-feet long each, and each red berry on the bush has a single seed, and each berry is 0.25-inches wide.
As a shrubby, low-growing native plant, bunchberry has flowers, leaves, and berries that look very similar to the plant’s cousin, the flowering dogwood. The white flowers create a pretty look in the spring months, and the small red fruit takes on this classic red hue in the autumn months where vireos feast on them. It grows best planted in acidic, well-drained soil in part sun to full shade in zones two to seven. At full height, this tiny plant tops out at six inches to make a great groundcover.
Bunchberry by Adriana W. Van Leeuwen / CC BY-NC 2.0
4. Butcher’s Broom
The red berries you find on this evergreen shrub are ones you can identify easily as they’re larger, glossy red, oblong fruit that will ripen in the late fall months to early winter. The small red fruit on this evergreen tend to grow in clusters, and the berries will emerge before they turn the bright red color at the end of summer. They are smaller, and they measure roughly 0.4-inches in diameter.
Another way to identify this evergreen shrub is to take a look and see if you can spot the unusually spiny, big, thick leaf-like structures that measure 1.5-inches long. This is a growth characteristic that is actually modified stems that now look like leaves. You’ll find the tough, small red fruit among the leaves. Due to the abundant bright to deep red berries and the evergreen foliage this shrub produces, it’s a very common landscaping plant. This bushy shrub will keep the green and red coloring throughout the winter months.
Butcher’s Broom by Bernard Dupont / CC BY-SA 2.0
Most people choose to grow the crabapple tree because they have a very high ornamental value to them in the spring when they bloom. The small red fruits are more for the birds than people. To get the biggest array of songbirds to your yard possible, pick cultivars that produce small red fruit that hangs on during the winter months. Plant your crabapple tree in well-drained but moist soil in full sun in zones four to eight to keep it happy. It can get up to 40 feet tall, depending on the cultivar.
6. Evans Cherry
Bright small red fruit will help you successfully identify the Evans cherry tree in the spring months. The vibrant red fruits are a type of sour cherry that tends to grow on clusters that dangle on the small tree. Like any type of cherry, the fruit has a large pit in the center. The tart taste you get from the small red fruit make them ideal to use in jam or cherry pies. You may hear it called “Bail,” but this tree tends to be smaller than other types of sour cherry trees. The average tree is a deciduous one that grows between 12 and 14 feet at full maturity, and it’s a cold-hardy cultivar that thrives in zone three and freezing climates.
Apart from the tasty and attractive crimson fruit this tree produces, these trees are great for garden landscapes. The trees will start to bloom early in the spring months to create stunning displays of white cherry blossoms with pink buds. The showy blooms will fill the air around it with a sweet scent. Next, your white flower masses will slowly develop into glossy, large red drupes. In the fall, the foliage turns from a dark green to pale yellow.
Evans Cherry by Ion Chizbii / CC BY-SA 2.0
The thorny, dense branches on this semi-evergreen or evergreen shrub give your birds and small animals excellent nesting places and shelters as well as food in the form of small red fruit. In the fall months, this plant will feature a dense covering or reddish-orange berries, and this brings stunning color to your fall garden. The berries are preceded by small white flowers in the mid-summer months, and it grows best in zones seven to nine. Plant it in full sun to partial sun in well-drained soil and it’ll get up to 16 feet tall.
8. High Bush Cranberries
High bush cranberries get their name due to the fact that they look remarkably similar to regular cranberries, even though they’re not a cranberry. However, the two plants are very different. The high bush cranberry plant has clusters of white flowers in June with three lobed leaves in a deep green coloring with a very glossy texture that turns a yellowish-orange during the fall months.
The small red fruits will start to ripen around August, and they offer a juicy, soft texture with a bright red coloring and a central core with seeds. They are very popular to use in jellies, jams, and juice, and they taste like normal cranberries. So, it’s not uncommon to use them for a cranberry substitute.
9. Linden Viburnum
You can identify this plant by the big clusters of small red fruit it produces with shiny, smooth coating. The glossy red drupes will add a lot of color to your space, and it contrasts nicely with the heart-shaped, big leaves. You typically plant linden viburnum is a low-maintenance, flowering shrub for ornamental value in your garden or landscape for the bright red berry clusters and pretty white flowers.
You may hear this plant referred to as linden arrowwood, and it’s a 10-foot tall shrub at full maturity with berries that measure roughly 0.3-inches in diameter. Aside from the red fruit, the identifying features on this plant are the ovate, broad leaves with toothed margins, whtie flowers, and blackish-orange bark. In the fall, the dark green foliage will turn to shades of burgundy, red, and bronze.
The common name for linden viburnum comes from the foliage on the shrub as it looks like leaves from the linden tree. To increase the number of small red fruits it produces each year, plant a few shrubs together to create an eye-catching, flowering hedgerow. Although you’ll find this plant in gardens all over the United States, some areas consider it to be invasive.
Linden Viburnum by Plant Image Library / CC BY-SA 2.0
10. Mulberry Trees
Mulberry trees are a very popular deciduous tree that produces delicious edible red, white, or black berry-like fruit. Commonly known as mulberries, this berry-producing, medium-sized tree comes with pretty heart-shaped leaves, spikes of tiny whits flowers, and grayish-brown bark that is very thick.
You can eat the mulberries fresh, or they work well to make jams, jellies, tarts, or pies. Also, the berries on this tree attract a range of birds to your summer garden. The common cultivars in this category that you can get are the white mulberry, red mulberry, and black mulberry. They grow best in zones four to nine when you plant them in partial to full sun with well-drained soil. Also, this tree is decently resistant to disease and pests.
The mature size of your tree will depend on which cultivar you pick out. White mulberry is the tallest at 80 feet, and the common red mulberry grows up to 70 feet high. The black mulberry is the smallest option, and it tops out at roughly 40 feet. Also, there are many cultivars, like the weeping mulberry tree, dwarf mulberry tree, or fruitless mulberry tree that are great for containers as they top out at two to six feet high.
11. Nanking Cherry
The traits you can use to identify the ornamental nanking cherry tree are the masses of showy, white flowers, edible small red fruits, and dark green leaves that grow from red-hued stems. The bright red fruits offer a slightly tart, sweet taste, and they ripen to a brilliant scarlet red during the summer months. Other common names for this plant include the Chinese cherry bush, mountain cherry, or downy cherry. Despite being called a cherry, this big red fruit with a pit resembles a plum. Each drupe will measure between 0.2-inches and 0.47-inches wide.
The red nanking cherry drupes will grow on a deciduous shrub that will top out at 10 feet tall. However, with care and pruning, this shrub is very fast-growing and makes a fantastic foundation plant, as a windbreak or privacy screen, or grown along borders. Apart from the more decorative or ornamental uses, the host of small red fruit will attract wildlife to the area. Also, the sweet-tangy red berries are popular for making wine, jams, juice, or using to pickle vegetables.
Red raspberries are tart-sweet small red fruits that grow on bushes. The fruits are slightly smaller, and they measure in at 0.4-inches long. They come with a bumpy texture because they feature tiny juice-infused capsules that all have a seed. Raspberry bushes are perennial plants that get between five and eight feet tall. Also, even though they’re called a berry, these are a type of aggregate fruit that has several drupelets. These dark to bright red drupelets will form a conical-shaped fruit.
When you pick raspberries from the bush, the core will separate to leave you with a hollow fruit. This is the difference between raspberries and other fruits in the Rubus genus, including dewberries, blackberries, and brambles. Wild raspberries will grow on longer canes and have leaves with toothed margins like poison oak or ivy foliage. However, wild raspberries aren’t poisonous, and you can eat them.
13. Red Cherry Trees
Cherry trees will produce a host of edible small red fruit that range in taste and color. Botanically speaking, however, red cherries are a drupe, even if many people list them as a very popular berry tree. Many types of cherry trees in the Prunus genus give you pretty blossoms in the spring and delicious fruit in the late summer and fall months. There are many cherry cultivars that range from sweet to sour. They can be red, yellow, deep red, or crimson red in color.
14. Red Elderberry
Clusters of bright red fruit are the main identifying feature of a red elderberry shrub. The tiny round berries will grow in very dense clusters and add eye-catching bright red colors to the shrub during summer and fall. The bunches of small red fruit follow after clusters of white, lemon-scented flowers die back. It’s also called the red-berried elder, and other species of the tree produce small white or black berries.
Although it’s safe to eat red elderberries after you cook them, you never want to attempt to eat them raw. Ingesting the small red fruit can cause stomach discomfort. In the landscape, this is a taller shrub that reaches between 7 and 20 feet high. It offers multi-stemmed, treelike growth that is identifiable by the pinnate-compound leaves that have five to seven leaflets. The flower clusters grow in a dome shape, and the dark red fruits follow them.
15. Red Heavenly Bamboo
Heavenly bamboo is an ornamental, evergreen landscape shrub that has an upright growth habit, poisonous crimson red berries, and brightly colored leaves. This shrub will adapt easily to most growing conditions, and they grow well in a huge range of soils, survive drought without an issue, and are relatively resistant to diseases and pests. Heavenly bamboo will bloom during the spring months, and the new leaves take on a pinkish-red hue. In the summer, it’s a green color before the leaves start to change to red, and the red berries appear in the fall and last through the winter.
This shrub will thrive planted in zones six to nine, and it grows best planted in partial shade to full sun. It has a medium growth speed, and it’ll mature between six and eight feet high and three feet wide. Many areas consider this plant invasive due to the suckering nature. However, if you choose to grow it in your yard, you can pick out cultivars that don’t produce fruit or flowers so it stays in place in your garden.
Thrushes, robins, and other birds are very quick to eat the small red fruit this white flowering tree produces. You can also eat them without a problem, and this plant grows as a small tree or big shrub, depending on the cultivar you pick out. They range from 4 to 25 feet tall, and they give you a huge amount of blooms in the spring with eye-catching colors in the fall. Most are native to North America, and they thrive in zones four to nine when you plant them in well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.
17. Snake Berries
Looking and feeling very similar to a strawberry, snake berries have the nickname of Indian strawberries or mock strawberries. However, they’re not actual berries, even if the white and red fruit look like a berry and you can eat it. This is actually a perennial herb with a small red fruit that offers a sweet taste with a juicy texture. It has medicinal benefits attached to it, and some people use it to help treat skin diseases. It’s also known to help with inflammation, body pain, and heart diseases. If you don’t use them in the proper quantity, the berries can be toxic.
Spindles are small trees or big shrubs that produce very showy small red fruit in the fall months. Each of the small reddish-pink berries have tiny seeds that are encased in an orange aril, just like a pomegranate. The inedible, unusual red berries have four lobes to lend a very bumpy appearance. They split open in the fall to show orange seeds, and the identifying features of this tree are the lancelot leaves that have an irregular crown, serrated edges, pretty yellow fall foliage, and showy fall fruit.
This very attractive landscape tree will get between 12 and 20 feet high and up to 16 feet wide at full maturity. Although they look very attractive, the red berries are poisonous and you shouldn’t eat them. Despite the fact that it produces poisonous small red fruit, they are very popular in foundation plantings, specimen trees, or as a deciduous hedge.
19. Strawberry Tree
Spiky small red fruits are one big identifying feature for this evergreen tree. The spherical red berries it produces have a rough surface with a sweet, pleasant taste. The berries range from 0.3-inches to 0.8-inches wide, and they’re ripe to eat in the fall when the plant starts to blossom again. The strawberry tree thrives in zones 7 to 10, and it’s a big broadleaf shrub that gets between 6 and 15 feet tall.
This is a pretty ornamental shrub that you can identify by the odd red and yellow fruit, peeling brown-gray bark, and the white, fragrant bell-shaped flowers. The glossy green foliage grows on red-hued stems, and the berries have an anise scent to them. Biting into one of these small red fruits gives you a tangy, sweet flavor that is slightly similar to a peach, mango, or apricot. The berries come out yellow and turn red as they ripen. However, the sweet red berries usually get made into jellies, jams, or sauces due to the gritty texture.
20. Sumac Trees and Shrubs
Sumac is a group of flowering small shrubs and trees. Sumac trees like the smooth sumac, staghorn sumac, or the fragrant sumac will produce small red fruit that is edible. You’ll get berry-like drupes with them, and even though they look like berries, they’re not. They’re drupes as they’re fruits with a seed in the middle like an apricot or peach.
The berry-like red fruit that grows on these trees or shrubs form cone-like clusters. Each small red fruit measures 0.16-inches across, and the berries have fine hairs on them to give them a slightly fuzzy appearance. The clusters of bright red fruits will get up to a foot long, and they offer a citrusy flavor with a very distinct tangy taste to them. They’re also packed with vitamin C, and you use them to create sumac spice, which is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisine.
21. Yew Trees
Yew is a genus of very slow-growing coniferous evergreen trees or shrubs. You can identify yew by their scaly, thin brown bark, single-seed, tiny cones, linear flat leaves, and small red fruit. The English yew is the most common cultivar you can get, but Western yew, Irish yew, and Japanese yew are also popular ornamental conifer trees. One big identifier for these trees is the red berry-like fruit called arils. These shrubs and trees produce a cup-shaped fruit with a single poisonous seed.
The fleshy-red portion of the aril is the only part of the yew tree or shrub that is edible. Unlike most conifer species that have seed-bearing cones, yew seeds and fruit grow directly on the stems instead of the cones. Yews are also a very cold-hardy evergreen that does well in zones three to seven. They can thrive in temperatures as low as -13°F, but they don’t do well with prolonged hot temperature exposure. Ensure that you have a well-draining soil to protect the roots from drought and heat. They shouldn’t get full sun exposure for more than six hours a day.
These 21 plants with small red fruit can help brighten up your yard or garden, and many of them offer edible fruits you can eat raw or use in various recipes from savory dishes to dessert and everything in between.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.