The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

A quick guide to identifying some hedgerow fruit

Photo: Wild cherry plums

Photo: Wild cherry plums

I’ve had quite a few emails recently about identifying hedgerow fruit so I thought that it might be helpful to post some of the pictures that I have. Sloes, wild damsons, wild cherry plums and bullaces all came from the same family – albeit distant relations. They all have stones and the bushes have similar leaves.

Photo: Sloe on a branch

Photo: Sloe on a branch

The main problem seems to be differentiating sloes and wild damsons as they are both small and dark. Sloe bushes have sharp thorns and wild damson trees do not. Damsons have longer stems so hang and look more like a tiny plum. Sloes have shorter stems and hug the branches more.


Steve pointed out (see comments) that sloes can be confused with Deadly Nightshade – you can see some photos Deadly Nightshade photos here.

 Wild plums taste like domestic plums (from sharp Mirabelles to sweet Victorias). Wild bullaces taste like greengages. Wild damsons are very sharp and sloes taste almost bitter.

Photo: Wild plums and bullace

Photo: Wild plums and bullace

Of course the best pocket guide to hedgerow foraging is Richard Maybe’s Food for Free (Collins GEM). It’s now on offer on Amazon for under £3.00.

  Leave a reply


  1. I have an old tree at the bottom of my garden near the woods and I thought it was a Sloe tree. I tasted the fruit and the taste is like a Plum. The tree has no thorns on it. They are a purplish colour. No stones. Definitely not sour like a Sloe. I am not sure what it is

  2. Mrs Alice M.

    My husband has picked 8lbs of small green/yellow/pink “cherry”? plums from the hedgerow on his field. What could/should we do with them all?

    • My thoughts would that if you don’t know what you are going to do with them before you pick them, then why not leave them for the birds?

      • ricia banther

        additionally, recognize many things like plumbs are better following a frost. and blk berries Uk folklore about when to stop picking them….those are ae still available have significant as the nature deterioration and bacteria over time will impact the later berries.

        personally a wasp or a sm snail being popped into my mouth then also is more of a caution!! grin

        9 mile by the way the crow flies from Stonehenge

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

2,274,691 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Copyright © 2006-2024 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder

Skip to toolbar