Plantidote of the Day 2010-10-12
Common name: Blackberries
Correntian ohio sends in an instructional story about how she made peace with a damaging and dangerous invasive plant -- Himalayan blackberries -- and then went one step further by learning how to make something useful from it:
The genus Rubus is believed to have existed since at least 23.7 to 36.6 million years ago and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of species.
According to Mary Robson, an Area Extension Agent:
In the maritime Northwest we generally see either the Himalayan blackberry (Rubus discolor) or the Evergreen blackberry (Rubus laciniatus). Both of these were introduced, probably as food sources. The Himalayan blackberry originated in Asia, then was taken to England. The Evergreen blackberry originates in Europe, does keep its leaves evergreen throughout winter, and has distinctly different leaves from the Himalayan. Evergreen blackberry leaves are deeply incised, and easy to distinguish from the other plant.
That Himalayan is my enemy and this plant (or its near relatives) is listed as a noxious weed in 46 states. The flowers are simple and pretty, usually a pinkish-white, and a lot like apple blossoms, which is no surprise since they’re related to apples.
Nothing else about blackberries is simple or pretty, though. A single cane can produce a thicket six yards square in less than two years and has choked out native vegetation from Northern California to British Columbia. The canes can grow for twenty-five feet and where they touch ground, they root. They have seeds spread by birds. They can take down trees. The canes will climb anything, including themselves, to form a dense cave of pain. They have, as Robson says, "skin-ripping thorns." And I’m pretty sure they are capable of murder.
I don't want to be murdered, so I've decided to quit fighting and start co-operating with them. Normally, there are two ways to battle blackberries: spray with glyphosate (aka Round-Up) or cut 'em down. We don't spray and I have mowed, chopped, and hacked blackberry brambles with mixed results. Goats will eat them, but you have to either cut a path or lay down some boards for them to get to the center of a big growth.
Fortunately, I've discovered a new way to deal with unwanted blackberries. The plants have an inner bark known as "bast" that’s used to make paper pulp. And in a later, separate post, I'll describe how that's done and what I'm doing with it.
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