We continue to develop resources related to the COVID-19 pandemic. See COVID-19 initiatives on Appropedia for more information.
Blackberries are the fruit of many Rubus species grouped together as the Rubus fruticosus species aggregateW, sometimes commonly referred to as "brambles".
- 1 Taxonomy
- 2 Varieties / Cultivars
- 3 Hybrid Berries
- 4 Common names
- 5 Etymology
- 6 Range
- 7 History
- 8 Morphology
- 9 Behaviour
- 10 Reproduction
- 11 Hardiness
- 12 Soil Type
- 13 Soil pH
- 14 Shade Preference
- 15 Shade Tolerance
- 16 Aspect
- 17 Exposure
- 18 Propagation
- 19 Cultivation Design
- 20 Maintenance
- 21 Watering
- 22 Pruning & Training
- 23 Problems
- 24 Harvest
- 25 Preservation
- 26 Uses
- 27 Nutritional Values
- 28 Cooking
- 29 References
Family: Rosaceae (the "rose family")
Species: Rubus fruticosus agg.
Varieties / Cultivars
- "Helen" - Thornless. 1.8-2.4 stems (relatively compact). Small fruit. Traditional blackberry flavour, eating quality variable. Very early season (ripen mid-July onwards).
- "Black Butte" - Thorny. Moderately vigorous. 1.8-2.4m stems. Heavy cropping. V large (up to 5cm), good quality fruit. Moderate flavour which improves when cooked. Early season (ripen end of July onwards).
- "Karaka Black" - Thorny. Compact. Quite large fruit. Very good flavour. Early season.
- "Loch Tay" (AGM)* - Thornless. Short stems (very compact plant). Crops as well as larger plants. Fair sized fruit. Full flavoured. Ripen mid Aug onwards. Good weather damage resistance.
- "Natchez" - Thornless. Vigorous. Heavy cropping. Large fruit. Pleasant flavour. Early season.
- "Obsidian" - (very) Thorny. Fairly vigorous, but brittle canes. Moderate cropping. Large fruit. Good flavour. Early season.
- "Sylvan" / "Silvan" (AGM)* - Thorny. Very vigorous. Large fruit. Tolerant to heavy soils, wind and drought. Early season.
- "Adrienne" - Thornless. Good cropping of long fruit of excellent flavour. Early season. 
- "Bedford Giant" - Thorny, vigorous canes. Heavy cropping. Large fruit of average flavour. Early season.
- "Waldo" - Thornless. Moderately vigorous. Semi-upright, brittle canes. Heavy cropping. Fruite large and firm. Good flavour. Fruit keep well. Mid season. Prone to viruses. Cane and leaf spot resistant.
- "Ashton Cross" - Thorny. Very vigorous. Thin canes. Heavy cropping. Small-medium sized fruit. Good flavour. Fruit well suited for freezing and jam making. Mid season.
- "Fantasia" - Thorny. Very vigorous. Heavy cropping. Large fruit. Well flavoured. Mid season.
- "Loch Maree" - Thornless. Moderately vigorous. Small fruit. Good, wild blackberry flavour. Mid-season.
- "Ouachita" - Almost thornless. Fairly vigorous. Very large leaves. Heavy cropping. Good size fruit. Well flavoured. Mid season.
- "Little Black Prince" - Thornless. Dwarf blackberry. Medium size fruit. Good flavour. Needs full sun. Mid-season.
- "Oregon Thornless" - Thornless. Moderately vigorous. Good cropping in fertile soils. Fruits medium sized, firm. Mild, sweet, good flavour. Evergreen or semi-evergreen.
- "Navaho" - Thornless. Moderately vigorous. Good cropper. Large fruit. Good, sweet flavour when well ripened.
- "Loch Ness" (AGM)* - Thornless. Relatively compact, upright growth habit. Very heavy cropping. Fruit large and firm. Good flavour when well ripened. Mid-late season.
- "Black Satin" - Vigorous canes. Productive. Large fruit, firm and keep well. Mid-late season. Resistant to Cane Spot.
- "Himalaya" - Thorny. Long, stout canes. Extremely vigorous. Moderate cropping. Fruit medium sized of average flavour. Mid-late season. Good in barriers and windbreaks.
- "Asterina" - Thornless. Very vigorous. Heavy cropping. Medium to large fruit. Good flavour when fully ripe.
- "Čačanska Bestrna" - Thornless. Very vigorous. Heavy cropping. Fairly acidic flavour unless well ripened.
- "Chester" - Thornless. Very vigorous. Heavy cropping. Medium to large fruit. Moderate flavour. Good disease resistance. In the North of the UK, needs a sheltered spot.
- "Himalayan Giant" - (very) Thorny. Very vigorous (needs space). Heavy cropping. Medium-sized fruit.
- "Triple Crown" - Thornless. Moderately vigorous. Semi-erect stems. Good cropper. Medium to large fruit. Moderate eating quality.
- "Veronique" - Thornless. Compact, semi-upright growth habit. Good crops of large fruit in late Summer.
- "Thornfree" - Thornless. Vigorous. Very heavy cropping. Fruit medium-large sized. Sweet-acid flavour. Late season.
- "Reuben" - Thorny. Fairly compact. Large fruit. Moderate flavour. Primocane. Very late ripening. Needs warm and sunny late summer and autumn weather for crop to ripen.
*The Award of Garden Merit (AGM) is a certification awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society highlighting a variety which is deemed to perform very well and is suitable for the amateur to grow in a garden.
The RHS Trial of Blackberry and Hybrid Berry carried out in 2013-2015 compared 19 common cultivars of blackberry and Rubus hybrids. The report goes into great detail and is an excellent resource to help with selecting cultivars.
The distinction between blackberry and hybrid berry cultivars can be blurred. Hybrid berries are the result of crossing between various Rubus species, typically blackberries and raspberries. The creation of such hybrids can be a complex story, and in modern times the exact parentage of some are disagreed upon. The Marionberry for example has a complex parentage. A blackberry–raspberry hybrid was crossed with a dewberry to create the YoungberryW (hexapoloid, with red berries). The Youngberry was crossed with a Loganberry (a Dewberry - Raspberry hybrid with dark red berries) to create OlallieberryW. Another hybrid, Chehalem blackberry is a cross between the Himalayan blackberry and the Santiam berry, which is itself a cross between the California blackberry and the Loganberry. Olallieberry and Chehalem have been crossed to produce the very widespread Marionberry (currently the most common blackberry cultivar). There is a hybrid variety with Boysenberry in Australia called Silvanberry. Despite their parentage involving plants other than blackberries, the Marionberry and Silvanberry tend to be considered blackberries, while the following tend to be considered hybrid berries.
- Boysenberry (Unclear origin. Possibly parentage involves European raspberry (Rubus idaeus), European blackberry (Rubus fruticosus), American dewberry (Rubus aboriginum), and loganberry (Rubus × loganobaccus)
- Loganberry (R. caesius / Dewberry × Raspberry)
- Tayberry (Blackberry × Raspberry)
- Common blackberry.
- Common bramble.
- Shrubby blackberry.
Blackberry (n.): "fruit of the bramble," early 12c., from Old English blaceberian, from black (adj.) + berry. So called for the color. Also in Old English as bremelberie, bremelæppel (from bramble).
Bramble (n.): Old English bræmbel "rough, prickly shrub" (especially the blackberry bush), from earlier bræmel, from Proto-Germanic bræmaz "thorny bush" (source also of Dutch braam, German Brombeere "blackberry"), from Proto Indo-European bh(e)rem- "projection / point / spike / edge / growl."
In the wild, it "moves" by putting down new roots where its arching shoots touch the ground.
Ideal is pH 7.
For most cultivars, facing is not too important.
More productive in a sheltered site.
From Seed: Seed requires warm and cold stratification (see Seed StratificationW). E.g. keep seed in a box of sand at warm room temperature for 3 months, then store at 4°c (40°F) for a further 3 months.
Tip layering: In summer, bend a healthy, vigorous shoot down so that the tip touches the ground and ig a 10cm (4') deep hole at that point. Bury the tip with well firmed down soil. By late autumn or winter the tip will have rooted and can be separated from the parent plant.
Hardwood cuttings: take in winter.
Can also be propagated by dividing the roots or by removing a sucker.
Plant cuttings, layers, roots or seedlings in late autumn or early spring.
Plant potted or bare-rooted new plants in winter.
Allow 1.8m (6ft) between plants.
Once established, very little watering required, only during very dry summers.
Pruning & Training
Fruiting occurs on stems which are in their second year. Generally idea of pruning blackberry is therefore to remove the canes which have just fruited in the last growing season. This pruning is best done in winter when the plant is dormant. However other sources advise pruning sooner after harvest in summer or autumn. Pruning needs to be done every year.<refname=rhspruningweb /> T he plant can stay healthier and more productive if it is allowed to move.
Exceptions to the above are "Himalaya" and "Evergreen" varieties which can fruit for several years on the same wood, so should not be pruned hard.
Orange Rust. A fungal disease (causative organism is Arthuriomyces peckianus or Gymnoconia nitens). Symptoms: bright orange spores under the leaves, spindly shoots with narrow leaves. Root out and burn afflicted plants. See these articles on Gardening Know How for more information.
Brids. Birds will eat some of the blackberries but this is not usually a big problem requiring any action.
The best time to harvest is when the fruit is almost ready to fall off. Sometimes the fruit can look ripe in colour, but taste very sharp, needing slightly more time on the plant to ripen. Pick only the plump, firm, fully coloured berries. The fruit will not continue to ripen more once picked. Cooking may improve flavour however.
Once picked, the blackberries need to be eaten within a few days. Some varieties keep slightly better than others.
When harvesting blackberries, watch out for chiggers (also known as berry bugs, see TrombiculidaeW). These are small mites that can cause rashes and itchiness when they bite.
- Fruit is edible raw, or cooked. Can be made into jams, cobblers, pies, jellies, etc.
- Fruit can be juiced.
- Fruit can be made into wine (see Blackberry wine recepie: Making fruit, vegetable and flower wines#Berry Wines).
- Bee plant.
- Young shoots (when spines are still soft) can be cooked.
- Leaves can be used to make tea.
- Purple dye from fruit and shoots.
- Basket weaving (spines can be removed by pulling stems through a small hole).
- Titchmarsh, A (2008). The kitchen gardener : grow your own fruit and veg. London BBC. ISBN 9781846072017.
- Crawford, M (2016). Creating a Forest Garden: working with nature to grow edible crops. Green Books. ISBN 9781900322621.
- Blackberries and hybrid berries. (RHS Gardening).
- Bird, R (2011). A practical guide to growing vegetables fruit & herbs. Hermes House. ISBN 9781843098324.
- Rubus fruticosus agg. (RHS Horticultural Database).
- Rubus fruticosus (Plants For A Future).
- Seymour, M (2014). The New Self-Sufficient Gardener: The complete illustrated guide to planning, growing, storing and preserving your own garden produce. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 9781409346784.
- Brickell, C; Royal Horticultural Society (2012). Encyclopedia of Gardening. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 9781409364658.
- Blackberry and hybrid berry: pruning and training (RHS Gardening).
- How To Grow Blackberries (RHS Gardening).