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Pheasant Berry

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The Pheasant Berry was brought over by the Victorians from the Himalayas or South West China and has toffee tasting berries when ripe but are dreadful and very bitter before then.

Hedgerow Type
Common Names Pheasant Berry, Himalayan Honeysuckle, Flowering Nutmeg, Himalyan Nutmeg
Scientific Name Leycesteria formosa
Season Start Jul
Season End Oct
Please note that each and every hedgerow item you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.


Dark green, usually with wavy edges and in pairs opposite each other along the stem.


Small, white, trumpet shaped flowers growing in pendulous racemes covered in purple bracts.


When ripe the berries are dark brown/purple to almost black and are found under the purple flower bracts.


Mainly in formal gardens but can be found self seeded in the wild.

Possible Confusion

Pheasant Berry is a very distinctive looking plant that would be hard to confuse with any other.


When fully ripe the berries taste of toffee or lightly burned sugar but if not yet ripe the berries are nasty tasting and very bitter.


Uncommon in the wild.


The berries are ripe when they easily burst while trying to pick them.


20 comments for Pheasant Berry

  1. Gill Brearley says:

    I understand that pheasant berries, although palatable and safe for humans, are poisonous to dogs?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Hi Gill, I can find no information about the berries toxicity to dogs but it not mentioned in the Dogs Trust list of poisonous garden plants.
      See Dogs Trust
      There is however some reports of poisoned cattle in Asia.

      1. Chris says:

        My dog spent yesterday afternoon illicitly scoffing berries. He spent yesterday evening throwing up the seeds. no dinner, but otherwise fine.

        1. Chris Callaghan says:

          My dog did exactly the same. Every time he was sick he just went back for more berries! No lasting harm.

  2. Trevor Bending says:

    Can you cook them (like blackberries for example)?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I’ve cooked them while making a sweet sauce and added them to mixed fruit leathers, there is no reason you can’t treat them like any other berry.

  3. Donna Clark says:

    A lovely plant and very attractive to wildlife. Blackbirds absolutely love the berries, jumping up to get the lower ones and preforming acrobatics to reach the highest ones. Bullfinches love the seeds.

  4. Sandy says:

    Hi I have had them for years and even put several in my neighbours garden for them . I have had several cats and they have never never touched them . I am giving someone some seedlings for their garden now and asked are they poisoness to cats . I have been lucky with my 9 cats if they are . Does anyone know please. Thanks

  5. Chris Callaghan says:

    My dog did exactly the same. Every time he was sick he just went back for more berries! No lasting harm.

  6. Charles Weller says:

    I have just been grazing on a bush in my Forest garden, they are gorgeous, burnt sugar/toffee tasting. For those of you who have picked enough for a recipe. Well done. Theyare very fiddly to pick without bursting them.
    Has anyone tried making wine from them?

    1. paul clark says:

      Hi, I make wine here in Somerset,came across this plant recently after never hearing of it ever until now 2023.
      I am now going to make serious efforts in propagating and growing some plants here where we live.
      We grow many other soft fruits so are very well equipped to take this plant on.
      Unable to find much info on the net about making wine from this plant, so here goes! 😀😀🍷

  7. T says:

    I planted one a couple of months ago and can’t wait for the berries to ripen so I can put them in a smoothie.

  8. Natalie says:

    Can you freeze the berries?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Yes, as the berries ripen at different times, it’s the best way to gather enough berries to be of use.

  9. Bill Sparrow says:

    This plant grew at a rapid pace before I noticed it now about 6ft and spreading.It’s regarded as a noxious plant and considered so in Australia and New Zealand. The seeds are many and I assume that bird/s have deposited them in the garden.
    It seems it’s capable to spread rapidly and becomes invasive, a bit like Japanese Knott Weed.So one wonders is it a species which
    Is too invasive.

  10. Jane Lyons says:

    We have young bushes growing wld in our woodland in Wales alongside the tracks that were recently made through the woods. We know this woodland was used for pheasant shooting in Victorian times and have found remains of pheasant feeders along the stream banks here and huge stands of invasive cherry Laurel 40 or fifty feet high .
    I am trying to make the very overgrown woodlands more wildlife friendly and look forward to these young bushes providing food for birds and other wildlife in winter. I suppose the seeds were uncovered when the soil was turned over for the tracks . They must have been dormant for years as they aren’t present elsewhere in the thickets.
    Nature is amazing.

  11. Julie Scott says:

    When is best to plant the phesant berry plant and how invasive is it as dont want something that’s going to take over my small / medium sized garden .

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      If planting seeds, it’s best to shallow sow them on cleared soil in Autumn for germination in Spring, if it is a plant, it shouldn’t matter too much about timings, just don’t plant them in Winter. They are slowly invasive, they would take many years to take over a garden and can always be cut back. It is considered invasive in New Zealand and other pacific islands where they are very careful about non-native species.

  12. Beth Basnett says:

    I have a pheasant berry much admired by all who see it. This year I will attempt to harvest the berries if I can beat the blackbirds to it.

    1. paul clark says:

      Just net them if you can?

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