If you are walking alone by yourself in the Midwestern or Eastern United States or Eastern Canada, you will encounter a strange phenomenon of hoards of eye-balls looking at you out of nowhere. Do not mistake them for being a prank or wonder if someone collected doll’s eyes and hung them up on a tree. These are the white fruits of a native plant called Actaea pachypoda or the White Baneberry.
The flowering plant grows only up to 1.5-2 feet tall and has white fruits with a black stigma scar that looks like eyeballs. These later thicken and become bright red berries, some of which produce an infertile seed.
Though they look strange, this can be an excellent example of faking among plants and the fruit also chases away animals by having a toxic reaction when consumed. In humans, intoxication of the White baneberry can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, blisters in the mouth, burning sensation, confusion and headache. According to records, the native population used the juice of the baneberries as a poison.
Contrary to the toxicity of the fruits, White Baneberry flowers emit a pleasant rose-like fragrance that allows small insects and European snout beetles for pollination.
So, the next time you are going on a hike, watch out for these little doll’s eyes that might be looking at you and keep away with respect as that is a master of disguise.
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