Latin Name: Rubus fruticosus species aggregate
Known Hazards: The plant sports numerous prickles which can harm during the gathering process.
Habitat: A very common and adaptable plant, found in hedgerows, woodland, meadows, waste ground etc.
Edibility Rating: 5 (1-5)
Medicinal Rating: 3 (1-5)
Physical Characteristics: Semi-deciduous scrambler to 2 m high with canes to about 7 m long. There are many taxa (in this case not true species) in the fruticosus aggregate. Stems mostly arching, green, reddish or purple, ribbed, angled or concave, with or without hairs. Prickles straight or curved. Leaves usually comprise 3 or 5 ovate leaflets, are dark green on the upper surface and with many to no hairs underneath. Fruit globe-shaped, 1–3 cm across, initially green ripening through red to black. Seeds pitted, to 3 mm long.
Flowers: To 3 cm wide with 5 white or pink petals. Flowers late spring to summer.The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects, Apomictic (reproduce by seeds formed without sexual fusion). The plant is self-fertile.
Dispersal: Spread by seed, rooting of cane tips and lateral roots producing suckers. The latter two means of spread result in large clumps over time. Fruit is eaten by birds and mammals (especially foxes) that may transport seeds some distance.
Edible Parts: Fruit. The best forms have delicious fruits and, with a range of types, it is possible to obtain ripe fruits from late July to November. The fruit is also made into syrups, jams and other preserves. Some people find that if they eat the fruit before it is very ripe and quite soft then it can give them stomach upsets. Root – cooked. The root should be neither to young nor too old and requires a lot of boiling. A tea is made from the dried leaves – the young leaves are best. The leaves are often used in herbal tea blends. Young shoots – raw. They are harvested as they emerge through the ground in the spring, peeled and then eaten in salads.
Astringent; Depurative; Diuretic; Vulnerary; Tonic. The root-bark and the leaves are strongly astringent, depurative, diuretic, tonic and vulnerary. They make an excellent remedy for dysentery, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, cystitis etc, the root is the more astringent. Externally, they are used as a gargle to treat sore throats, mouth ulcers and gum inflammations. A decoction of the leaves is useful as a gargle in treating thrush and also makes a good general mouthwash.
Dye; Fibre; Pioneer. A purple to dull blue dye is obtained from the fruit. A fibre is obtained from the stem and used to make twine. Plants are spread by seed deposited in the droppings of birds and mammals. They often spring up in burnt-over, logged or abandoned land and make an excellent pioneer species, creating the right conditions for woodland trees to move in. The trees will often grow in the middle of a clump of blackberries, the prickly stems protecting them from rabbits.
Notes: The most common taxon (formerly Rubus procerus or Rubus discolor) in the Rubus fruticosus species. Blackberry was first introduced to Australia in the early 1800s. It is one of the worst weeds of moist temperate Australia. Plants are not readily eaten by cattle, but goats will graze on them. Shrubs harbour feral animals but help prevent erosion. The rust, Phragmidium violaceum, has been introduced for biological control of various European Rubus taxa.