This year's unusual abundance of a poisonous berry is worrying naturalist Laurie Craig.
Craig, an interpreter with the U.S. Forest Service at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, said many locals aren't familiar with the toxic baneberry.
"I'm seeing more of these berries than ever before," said Craig, a 40-year resident. "It's such a warm year, everything is growing very rapidly."
The red or ivory, bean-like berries grow on bushes just a few inches to a foot from the ground. The shiny, bright red ones could be enticing to a child, she said.
The berries contain the toxin glycoside and essential oils that cause rapid vomiting, according to the Oregon Poison Center, a regional center that provides service to Alaska.
"The berries are pretty bitter, so they're not something anyone would tend to eat a lot of," said Rob Hendrickson, associate medical director for the poison center. "A child might eat one, but hopefully wouldn't eat any more."
There has never been a reported death due to baneberry ingestion in the United States, Hendrickson said. But in 1903, an adult became ill after eating only six.
Sickness would likely include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness and lethargy.
The white berries are less toxic to humans than the red, said Hendrickson, but no one should eat either color.
Emergency room personnel could not recall any visits or calls related to potential berry poisoning, said Jim Strader, community relations director for Bartlett Regional Hospital.
Hendrickson recommended anyone suspicious of illness related to eating baneberries call the poison center.
Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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