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Plantidote of the Day 2010-10-12

twig's picture


Common name: Blackberries

Genus: Rubus
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.

Readers, please send me ( images and stories for the ongoing Plantidote of the Day series. In exchange, you'll win undying fame in the form of a hat tip! Plants growing in your garden, your house, or neighbor's yard, plants from the forest or farmers' market, plants you preserved, plants you prepared (wine; cider; tea; dried beans), plants you harvested (grains; chanterelles), plants you picked (flowers), plants you dried (herbs), plants you covet or hope to grow someday. Herbal remedies, propagation tips, new varieties, etc.. And if you can, include some solid detail about the plant, too -- a story, the genus and species, or where you got the seeds, or the recipe, or your grandmother gave it to you. Or challenge us with a “Name That Plant” mystery entry ... And please feel free to add corrections and additional information in the comments.

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kerril's picture
Submitted by kerril on

They're slowly moving in on our backyard. Blackberry cobbler is delicious but not so delicious I want these guys taking over.
Cutting them back just seems to make them mad and they come at you from more directions. Like Raptors.

jjmtacoma's picture
Submitted by jjmtacoma on

Blackberries make a nice freezer jam and it tastes very fresh - like the berries themselves. I think you could easily do the canning thing, but lacking canning type equipment, I have gone for the freezer variety. My daughter loves to pick blackberries and make jam with me but she hasn't been as helpful eating it!

All vacant lots and un-maintained areas are covered in blackberry brambles in my neighborhood. The kids pick and eat them on the way to and from school during the fall. Little purple finger prints, August - October.

Submitted by jawbone on

and probably lots more states; last year they were especially abundant. My brother picked and picked and picked them and my sister-in-law experimented with many, many recipes for preserving them along with usual sugared berries over ice cream or cereal. The freezer jams were fantastic, and she also made a sauce which I'm told was to die for.

I, unfortunately, had some kind of stomach bug and missed the serving of the very last sauce. All told me how outstanding it was and wha a treat I had missed....

This year, hardly any berries, so I won't get any if I make it out to WI this Christmas, alas.

Submitted by ohio on

I really enjoy the Plantidote postings.

Anyway, part two of the story is up.

Jjm, we could can blackberry jam up here next year. I got all the stuff and dawg knows, we got blackberries everywhere, the bastards. I mean, the little darlings. If I freeze up raspberries (and my neighbors have a crapload of raspberries every year) we could do a day of jamming and drinking wine for medicinal purposes.

Keep it in mind.

jjmtacoma's picture
Submitted by jjmtacoma on

And if it is during the summer days, I am more free to trek out to your neck of the woods.

I've never canned anything, so it is a little intimidating and maybe a little expensive for something that might not be as much fun as the idea... but I've always wanted to try.

Everything is fun when wine is involved!

Submitted by ohio on

Fruit has acid and sugar, so making jam and syrup and stuff is a lot easier than canning veggies. We don't need a pressure cooker or anything.

Fun. Maybe we can schedule it around the same time as Burning Mad. Heh.