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Ripe, ripening, and green blackberries.jpg
Ripe, ripening, and unripe blackberries,
of an unidentified blackberry species

Rubus fruticosus Luc Viatour.JPG Blackberry flower, Rubus fruticosus species aggregate


Scientific classification
Rubus (formerly Eubatus)

And hundreds more microspecies
(the subgenus also includes the dewberries)

The blackberry is an edible fruit produced by many species in the genus Rubus in the family Rosaceae, hybrids among these species within the subgenus Rubus, and hybrids between the subgenera Rubus and Idaeobatus. The taxonomy of the blackberries has historically been confused because of hybridization and apomixis, so that species have often been grouped together and called species aggregates. For example, the entire subgenus Rubus has been called the Rubus fruticosus aggregate, although the species R. fruticosus is considered a synonym of R. plicatus . [1]


What distinguishes the blackberry from its raspberry relatives is whether or not the torus (receptacle or stem) "picks with" (i.e., stays with) the fruit. When picking a blackberry fruit, the torus stays with the fruit. With a raspberry, the torus remains on the plant, leaving a hollow core in the raspberry fruit. [2]

The term bramble , a word meaning any impenetrable thicket, has traditionally been applied specifically to the blackberry or its products, [3] though in the United States it applies to all members of the genus Rubus. In the western US, the term caneberry is used to refer to blackberries and raspberries as a group rather than the term bramble.

The usually black fruit is not a berry in the botanical sense of the word. Botanically it is termed an aggregate fruit, composed of small drupelets. It is a widespread and well-known group of over 375 species, many of which are closely related apomictic microspecies native throughout Europe, northwestern Africa, temperate western and central Asia and North and South America. [4]

Botanical characteristics

Blackberries are perennial plants which typically bear biennial stems ("canes") from the perennial root system. [5]

In its first year, a new stem, the primocane, grows vigorously to its full length of 3–6 m (in some cases, up to 9 m), arching or trailing along the ground and bearing large palmately compound leaves with five or seven leaflets; it does not produce any flowers. In its second year, the cane becomes a floricane and the stem does not grow longer, but the lateral buds break to produce flowering laterals (which have smaller leaves with three or five leaflets). [5] First- and second-year shoots usually have numerous short-curved, very sharp prickles that are often erroneously called thorns. These prickles can tear through denim with ease and make the plant very difficult to navigate around. Prickle-free cultivars have been developed. The University of Arkansas has developed primocane fruiting blackberries that grow and flower on first-year growth much as the primocane-fruiting (also called fall bearing or everbearing) red raspberries do.

Unmanaged mature plants form a tangle of dense arching stems, the branches rooting from the node tip on many species when they reach the ground. Vigorous and growing rapidly in woods, scrub, hillsides, and hedgerows, blackberry shrubs tolerate poor soils, readily colonizing wasteland, ditches, and vacant lots. [4] [6]

The flowers are produced in late spring and early summer on short racemes on the tips of the flowering laterals. [5] Each flower is about 2–3 cm in diameter with five white or pale pink petals. [5]

The drupelets only develop around ovules that are fertilized by the male gamete from a pollen grain. The most likely cause of undeveloped ovules is inadequate pollinator visits. [7] Even a small change in conditions, such as a rainy day or a day too hot for bees to work after early morning, can reduce the number of bee visits to the flower, thus reducing the quality of the fruit. Incomplete drupelet development can also be a symptom of exhausted reserves in the plant's roots or infection with a virus such as raspberry bushy dwarf virus.


One of the earliest known instances of blackberry consumption comes from the preserved remains of the Haraldskær Woman, the naturally preserved bog body of a Danish woman dating from approximately 2,500 years ago.[ citation needed ] Forensic evidence found blackberries in her stomach contents, among other foods.[ citation needed ] The use of blackberries to make wines and cordials was documented in the London Pharmacopoeia in 1696. [8] As food, blackberries have a long history of use alongside other fruits to make pies, jellies and jams. [8]

The use of blackberry plants for medicinal purposes has a long history in Western culture.[ citation needed ][ dubious ] The ancient Greeks, other European peoples, and native Americans used the various part of the plants for different treatments. Chewing the leaves or brewing the shoots into tea were used to treat mouth ailments, such as bleeding gums and canker sores.[ citation needed ] Tea brewed from leaves, roots, and bark was also used to treat pertussis. [8] The roots, which have been described as astringent, have been used for treatment of intestinal problems, such as dysentery and diarrhea.[ citation needed ] The fruit having a high vitamin C content was possibly used for the treatment of scurvy.[ citation needed ] A 1771 document recommended brewing blackberry leaves, stem, and bark for stomach ulcers. [8]

Blackberry fruit, leaves, and stems have been used to dye fabrics and hair. Native Americans have even been known to use the stems to make rope.[ citation needed ] The shrubs have also been used for barriers around buildings, crops and livestock. The wild plants have sharp, thick thorns, which offered some protection against enemies and large animals. [8]

Cultivar development

Modern development of several cultivars took place mostly in the United States. In 1880, a cultivar named the loganberry was developed in Santa Cruz, California, by an American judge and horticulturalist, James Harvey Logan. One of the first thornless varieties was developed in 1921, but the berries lost much of their flavor. Common thornless cultivars developed from the 1990s to the early 21st century by the US Department of Agriculture enabled efficient machine-harvesting, higher yields, larger and firmer fruit, and improved flavor, including the Triple Crown, [8] [9] Black Diamond, Black Pearl, and Nightfall, a Marionberry. [10]


A bee, Bombus hypnorum, pollinating blackberries Bee pollinating Blackberry.jpg
A bee, Bombus hypnorum , pollinating blackberries

Blackberry leaves are food for certain caterpillars; some grazing mammals, especially deer, are also very fond of the leaves. Caterpillars of the concealer moth Alabonia geoffrella have been found feeding inside dead blackberry shoots. When mature, the berries are eaten and their seeds dispersed by mammals, such as the red fox, American black bear and the Eurasian badger, as well as by small birds. [11]

A basket of wild blackberries Basket of wild blackberries.JPG
A basket of wild blackberries

Blackberries grow wild throughout most of Europe. They are an important element in the ecology of many countries, and harvesting the berries is a popular pastime. However, the plants are also considered a weed, sending down roots from branches that touch the ground, and sending up suckers from the roots. In some parts of the world, such as in Australia, Chile, New Zealand, and the Pacific Northwest of North America, some blackberry species, particularly Rubus armeniacus (Himalayan blackberry) and Rubus laciniatus (evergreen blackberry), are naturalised and considered an invasive species and a serious weed. [4]

Blackberry fruits are red before they are ripe, leading to an old expression that "blackberries are red when they're green". [12]

In various parts of the United States, wild blackberries are sometimes called "black-caps", a term more commonly used for black raspberries, Rubus occidentalis .

As there is evidence from the Iron Age Haraldskær Woman that she consumed blackberries some 2,500 years ago, it is reasonable to conclude that blackberries have been eaten by humans over thousands of years.



Blackberries, raw (Rubus spp.)
Blackberry close-up.JPG
Close-up view of a blackberry
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 180 kJ (43 kcal)
9.61 g
Sugars 4.88 g
Dietary fiber 5.3 g
0.49 g
1.39 g
Vitamins Quantity%DV
Vitamin A 214 IU
Thiamine (B1)
0.020 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.026 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.646 mg
Vitamin B6
0.030 mg
Folate (B9)
25 μg
Vitamin C
21.0 mg
Vitamin E
1.17 mg
Vitamin K
19.8 μg
Minerals Quantity%DV
29 mg
0.62 mg
20 mg
22 mg
162 mg
1 mg
0.53 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Cultivated blackberries are notable for their significant contents of dietary fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K (table). [13] A 100 gram serving of raw blackberries supplies 43 calories and 5 grams of dietary fiber or 25% of the recommended Daily Value (DV) (table). [13] In 100 grams, vitamin C and vitamin K contents are 25% and 19% DV, respectively, while other essential nutrients are low in content (table).

Blackberries contain both soluble and insoluble fiber components. [14]

Blackberries are also noted for containing manganese and folic acid. [15]

Seed composition

Blackberries contain numerous large seeds that are not always preferred by consumers. The seeds contain oil rich in omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6 (linoleic acid) fats as well as protein, dietary fiber, carotenoids, ellagitannins, and ellagic acid. [16]


The soft fruit is popular for use in desserts, jams, seedless jelly, and sometimes wine. It is often mixed with apples for pies and crumbles. Blackberries are also used to produce candy.


The leaves are rich in tannin and have antibacterial properties. They have been used medicinally since at least the time of the ancient Greeks. They are made into an astringent tea which is used to relieve sore throats, mouth ulcers, diarrhoea and thrush. [15]

Phytochemical research

Blackberries contain numerous phytochemicals including polyphenols, flavonoids, anthocyanins, salicylic acid, ellagic acid, and fiber. [13] [17] Anthocyanins in blackberries are responsible for their rich dark color. One report placed blackberries at the top of more than 1000 polyphenol-rich foods consumed in the United States, [18] but this concept of a health benefit from consuming darkly colored foods like blackberries remains scientifically unverified and not accepted for health claims on food labels. [19] [ needs update ]


Black Butte blackberry Black Butte blackberry.jpg
Black Butte blackberry

Worldwide, Mexico is the leading producer of blackberries, with nearly the entire crop being produced for export into the off-season fresh markets in North America and Europe. [20] Until 2018, the Mexican market was almost entirely based on the cultivar 'Tupy' (often spelled 'Tupi', but the EMBRAPA program in Brazil from which it was released prefers the 'Tupy' spelling), but Tupy fell out of favor in some Mexican growing regions. [21] In the US, Oregon is the leading commercial blackberry producer, producing 42,600,000 pounds (19,300,000 kg) on 6,300 acres (25 km2) in 2017. [22] [23]

Numerous cultivars have been selected for commercial and amateur cultivation in Europe and the United States. [10] [24] Since the many species form hybrids easily, there are numerous cultivars with more than one species in their ancestry. [10]


'Marion' (marketed as "marionberry") is an important cultivar that was selected from seedlings from a cross between 'Chehalem' and 'Olallie' (commonly called "Olallieberry") berries. [25] 'Olallie' in turn is a cross between loganberry and youngberry. 'Marion', 'Chehalem' and 'Olallie' are just three of many trailing blackberry cultivars developed by the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) blackberry breeding program at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. [10]

The most recent cultivars released from this program are the prickle-free cultivars 'Black Diamond', 'Black Pearl', and 'Nightfall' as well as the very early-ripening 'Obsidian' and 'Metolius'. 'Black Diamond' is now the leading cultivar being planted in the Pacific Northwest. Some of the other cultivars from this program are 'Newberry', 'Waldo', 'Siskiyou', 'Black Butte', 'Kotata', 'Pacific', and 'Cascade'. [10]


Trailing blackberries are vigorous and crown forming, require a trellis for support, and are less cold hardy than the erect or semi-erect blackberries. In addition to the United States's Pacific Northwest, these types do well in similar climates such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Chile, and the Mediterranean countries.


Semi-erect, prickle-free blackberries were first developed at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, and subsequently by the USDA-ARS in Beltsville, Maryland. These are crown forming and very vigorous and need a trellis for support. Cultivars include 'Black Satin' 'Chester Thornless', 'Dirksen Thornless', 'Hull Thornless', 'Loch Maree', 'Loch Ness', 'Loch Tay', 'Merton Thornless', 'Smoothstem', and 'Triple Crown'. [26] 'Loch Ness' and 'Loch Tay' have gained the RHS's Award of Garden Merit. [27] The cultivar 'Cacanska Bestrna' (also called 'Cacak Thornless') has been developed in Serbia and has been planted on many thousands of hectares there.


The University of Arkansas has developed cultivars of erect blackberries. These types are less vigorous than the semi-erect types and produce new canes from root initials (therefore they spread underground like raspberries). There are prickly and prickle-free cultivars from this program, including 'Navaho', 'Ouachita', 'Cherokee', 'Apache', 'Arapaho', and 'Kiowa'. [28] [29] They are also responsible for developing the primocane fruiting blackberries such as 'Prime-Jan' and 'Prime-Jim'. [28]


In raspberries, these types are called primocane fruiting, fall fruiting, or everbearing. 'Prime-Jim' and 'Prime-Jan' were released in 2004 by the University of Arkansas and are the first cultivars of primocane fruiting blackberry. [30] They grow much like the other erect cultivars described above; however, the canes that emerge in the spring will flower in midsummer and fruit in late summer or fall. The fall crop has its highest quality when it ripens in cool mild climate such as in California or the Pacific Northwest. [31]

'Illini Hardy', a semi-erect prickly cultivar introduced by the University of Illinois, is cane hardy in zone 5, where traditionally blackberry production has been problematic, since canes often failed to survive the winter.

Mexico and Chile

Blackberry production in Mexico expanded considerably in the early 21st century. [20] [23] In 2017, Mexico had 97% of the market share for fresh blackberries imported into the United States, while Chile had 61% of the market share for frozen blackberries of American imports. [23]

While once based on the cultivar 'Brazos', an old erect blackberry cultivar developed in Texas in 1959, the Mexican industry is now dominated by the Brazilian 'Tupy' released in the 1990s. 'Tupy' has the erect blackberry 'Comanche', and a "wild Uruguayan blackberry" as parents. [32] Since there are no native blackberries in Uruguay, the suspicion is that the widely grown 'Boysenberry' is the male parent. In order to produce these blackberries in regions of Mexico where there is no winter chilling to stimulate flower bud development, chemical defoliation and application of growth regulators are used to bring the plants into bloom.

Diseases and pests

Raindrop on blackberry pale pink flower Blackberry flower (2).jpg
Raindrop on blackberry pale pink flower

Because blackberries belong to the same genus as raspberries, [33] they share the same diseases, including anthracnose, which can cause the berry to have uneven ripening. Sap flow may also be slowed. [34] [35] They also share the same remedies, including the Bordeaux mixture, [36] a combination of lime, water and copper(II) sulfate. [37] The rows between blackberry plants must be free of weeds, blackberry suckers and grasses, which may lead to pests or diseases. [38] Fruit growers are selective when planting blackberry bushes because wild blackberries may be infected, [38] and gardeners are recommended to purchase only certified disease-free plants. [39]

The spotted-wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii , is a serious pest of blackberries. [40] Unlike its vinegar fly relatives, which are primarily attracted to rotting or fermented fruit, D. suzukii attacks fresh, ripe fruit by laying eggs under the soft skin. The larvae hatch and grow in the fruit, destroying the fruit's commercial value. [40]

Another pest is Amphorophora rubi, known as the blackberry aphid, which eats not just blackberries but raspberries as well. [41] [42] [43]

Byturus tomentosus (raspberry beetle), Lampronia corticella (raspberry moth) and Anthonomus rubi (strawberry blossom weevil) are also known to infest blackberries. [44]


The loci controlling the primocane fruiting was mapped in the F Locus, on LG7, whereas thorns/hornlessness was mapped on LG4. [45] Better understanding of the genetics is useful for genetic screening of cross-breds, and for genetic engineering purposes.


Folklore in the United Kingdom tells that blackberries should not be picked after Old Michaelmas Day (11 October) as the devil (or a Púca) has made them unfit to eat by stepping, spitting or fouling on them. [46] There is some value in this legend as autumn's wetter and cooler weather often allows the fruit to become infected by various molds such as Botryotinia which give the fruit an unpleasant look and may be toxic. [47] According to some traditions, a blackberry's deep purple color represents Christ's blood and the crown of thorns was made of brambles, [48] [49] although other thorny plants, such as Crataegus (hawthorn) and Euphorbia milii (crown of thorns plant), have been proposed as the material for the crown. [50] [51]

See also

Related Research Articles

Berry Edible fruit

A berry is a small, pulpy, and often edible fruit. Typically, berries are juicy, rounded, brightly colored, sweet or sour, and do not have a stone or pit, although many pips or seeds may be present. Common examples are strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, red currants, white currants and blackcurrants. In Britain, soft fruit is a horticultural term for such fruits.

<i>Rubus</i> genus of plants in the rose family

Rubus is a large and diverse superspecies of flowering plants in the rose family, Rosaceae, subfamily Rosoideae, with 250–700 species.


A bramble is any rough, tangled, prickly shrub, usually in the genus Rubus, the blackberries and raspberries and dewberries. "Bramble" is also used to describe other prickly shrubs such as roses. Bramble or brambleberry sometimes refers to the blackberry fruit or products of its fruit, such as bramble jelly.


The dewberries are a group of species in the genus Rubus, section Rubus, closely related to the blackberries. They are small trailing brambles with aggregate fruits, reminiscent of the raspberry, but are usually purple to black instead of red.

Boysenberry cross between a European Raspberry (Rubus idaeus), a Common Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus), an American Dewberry (Rubus aboriginum) and a Loganberry (Rubus × loganobaccus)

The boysenberry is a cross among the European raspberry, European blackberry, American dewberry, and loganberry.

Raspberry berry

The raspberry is the edible fruit of a multitude of plant species in the genus Rubus of the rose family, most of which are in the subgenus Idaeobatus; the name also applies to these plants themselves. Raspberries are perennial with woody stems.

<i>Rubus idaeus</i> species of plant

Rubus idaeus is a red-fruited species of Rubus native to Europe and northern Asia and commonly cultivated in other temperate regions.

<i>Rubus spectabilis</i> species of Rubus native to the west coast of North America

Rubus spectabilis, the salmonberry, is a species of brambles in the rose family, native to the west coast of North America from west central Alaska to California, inland as far as Idaho.

Loganberry species of plant

The loganberry is a hybrid of blackberry and raspberry (Rubus idaeus).

Marionberry Blackberry Cultivar

The 'Marion' cultivar or Marion blackberry, marketed as marionberry , is a blackberry developed by the USDA ARS breeding program in cooperation with Oregon State University. It is a cross between the 'Chehalem' and 'Olallie' blackberries. The marionberry is currently the most common blackberry cultivar, accounting for over half of all blackberries produced in Oregon.

<i>Rubus caesius</i> species of plant

Rubus caesius is a Eurasian species of dewberry, known as the European dewberry. Like other dewberries, it is a species of flowering plant in the rose family, related to the blackberry. It is widely distributed across much of Europe and Asia from Ireland and Portugal as far east as Xinjiang Province in western China. It has also become sparingly naturalized in scattered locations in Argentina, Canada, and the United States.

<i>Rubus occidentalis</i> species of plant

Rubus occidentalis is a species of Rubus native to eastern North America. Its common name black raspberry is shared with the closely related western American species Rubus leucodermis. Other names occasionally used include wild black raspberry, black caps, black cap raspberry, thimbleberry, and scotch cap.

Rubus parviflorus species of plant

Rubus parviflorus, commonly called thimbleberry, is a species of Rubus native to northern temperate regions of North America. It bears edible red fruit similar in appearance to a raspberry. Because the fruit does not hold together well, it has not been commercially developed for the retail berry market, but is cultivated for landscapes. The plant has large fuzzy leaves and no thorns.

<i>Rubus hawaiensis</i> species of plant

Rubus hawaiensis, also called the ʻĀkala, is one of two species commonly known as Hawaiian raspberry, endemic to Hawaii. It is found on the islands of Kauaʻi, Molokaʻi, Maui, O'ahu, and Hawaiʻi in mesic to wet forest at elevations of 600–3,070 m (1,970–10,070 ft). In most areas it is not very common, but in some places it can be a dominant member of the understory vegetation. Although superficially similar to the other Hawaiian species, Rubus macraei, the two are believed to be derived from separate dispersals to Hawaii.

<i>Rubus saxatilis</i> species of plant

Rubus saxatilis, or stone bramble, is a species of bramble widespread across Europe and Asia from Iceland and Spain east as far as China. It has also been found in Greenland.

'Kotata' is a blackberry cultivar with a diverse ancestry in a few Rubus species including western and eastern North American blackberry species and red raspberry. 'Kotata' was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service in Corvallis, Oregon, United States in their cooperative breeding program with Oregon State University. In 1984, 'Kotata' was released as a potential replacement for the 'Marion' blackberry, with better cold tolerance and fruit firmness. However, while the taste of the 'Kotata' is unique and invariably good, it did not replace 'Marion' but was used as a slightly earlier complement to 'Marion'. 'Kotata' was selected from a cross of the two parents OSC 743 ['Pacific' × 'Boysen'] × OSC 877 ['Jenner' × 'Eldorado']. The pedigree of 'Kotata' has boysenberry, wild Pacific Northwest blackberries, an Eastern U.S. blackberry species and loganberry in its background. While it was released as a cultivar in 1984, it was first selected as OSC 1050 in 1951 and was grown commercially under that name. 'Kotata' has been grown primarily in the Pacific Northwest region of North America and in the United Kingdom.

<i>Rubus ursinus</i> species of plant

Rubus ursinus is a North American species of blackberry or dewberry, known by the common names California blackberry, California dewberry, Douglas berry, Pacific blackberry, Pacific dewberry and trailing blackberry.

<i>Rubus hayata-koidzumii</i>

Rubus hayata-koidzumii is probably better known by the (illegitimate) synonym Rubus calycinoides or as creeping raspberry. It is a low-growing member of the genus Rubus which also includes better known edibles such as the blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry, and thimbleberry.

<i>Rubus pubescens</i> species of plant

Rubus pubescens is a herbaceous perennial widespread across much of Canada and the northern United States, from Alaska to Newfoundland, south as far as Oregon, Colorado, and West Virginia.

<i>Rubus tricolor</i> Species of evergreen prostrate shrub native to southwestern China

Rubus tricolor is an evergreen prostrate shrub, native to southwestern China. Leaves are dark green above, pale green below, and stems have red bristles. It has white flowers in summer, and edible red fruit. It grows approximately 0.3 m (1 ft) high and usually forming a vigorously spreading, dense mat. In cultivation it is mainly used as groundcover. Common names include Chinese Bramble, Groundcover Bramble, Creeping Bramble, Korean Raspberry, Himalayan Bramble, Groundcover Raspberry. In Chinese it is called 三色莓.


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Further reading