By Filip Tkaczyk
Blackberry plants are one of the tastiest of all wild fruits growing on vines. It is a well-known and well loved plant found throughout the United States. Humans have had a good relationship with these plants for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Here are some things you might want to know about blackberry plants…
How do you tell raspberries and blackberries apart? Here are a few things that can help:
- Blackberries are generally purple to black, raspberries are generally red (except for blackcap)
- Raspberry fruits are hollow, blackberry fruits are solid inside
- Salmonberry is in the same genus, Rubus, as raspberries and blackberries
- Salmonberries are also hollow like raspberries
- The stems (canes) of raspberries are always round, blackberry canes have flattened surfaces or planes
Blackberry's are distinct from other similar plants in several ways:
- They have 5-petaled white to pinkish flowers, the flowers give them away as being in the rose family
- The berry is actually a collection of tiny berries stuck together in a clump known as an aggregate fruit
- Blackberries have 3 to 7 leaflets that radiate from a central point, called a palmately compound leaf
- Wild blackberries have thorns all over their stems, some species also have thorns on the underside of their leaflets
- The fruits ripen summer to early fall, flower in the spring to early summer
The blackberries have many uses, not just limited to the fruits themselves. The leaves can be dried completely and used as a tea. The plants can be used as hedges along property boundaries. The fruits of course are delicious in many forms including jams, preserves, in or on pancakes, muffins, breads, ice cream or frozen yogurts, and many other edible treats. Native peoples in various parts of North America once managed the landscape in favor of blackberries, using fire to keep areas open and create the disturbed habitat edges where blackberries thrive.
For more information check out some local field guides or take some edible plant classes.
- Newcomb's Wildflower Guide by Newcomb (provides a great, simple identification system)
- Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and McKinnon (is one of the best plant guides for the Northwest)
- Discovering Wild Plants by Schofield (provides excellent information on harvesting, preparing, and recipes for wild plants)
For more information on the care of blackberries check out Arbor Day's blackberry page.
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