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Rubus fruticosus - L.                
Common Name Blackberry, Shrubby blackberry
Family Rosaceae
Known Hazards None known
Habitats A very common and adaptable plant, found in hedgerows, woodland, meadows, waste ground etc[17, 244].
Range Europe, including Britain, to the Mediterraneanand Macaronesia.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun


Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of shrub
Rubus fruticosus is a deciduous Shrub growing to 3 m (9ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 11-Mar It is in flower from May to September, and the seeds ripen from Jul to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects, Apomictic.The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.

USDA hardiness zone : 5-9

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Rubus fruticosus Blackberry, Shrubby blackberry
Rubus fruticosus Blackberry, Shrubby blackberry
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; not Deep Shade; Hedgerow;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Fruit;  Leaves;  Root.
Edible Uses: Tea.

Fruit - raw or cooked[5, 7, 9, 12, 183]. The best forms have delicious fruits and, with a range of types, it is possible to obtain ripe fruits from late July to November[K]. The fruit is also made into syrups, jams and other preserves[238]. Some people find that if they eat the fruit before it is very ripe and quite soft then it can give them stomach upsets[K]. Root - cooked. The root should be neither to young nor too old and requires a lot of boiling[7]. A tea is made from the dried leaves[21] - the young leaves are best[61]. The leaves are often used in herbal tea blends[238]. Young shoots - raw. They are harvested as they emerge through the ground in the spring, peeled and then eaten in salads[244].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antidiarrhoeal;  Astringent;  Depurative;  Diuretic;  Tonic;  Vulnerary.

The root-bark and the leaves are strongly astringent, depurative, diuretic, tonic and vulnerary[4, 7, 9, 165, 254]. They make an excellent remedy for dysentery, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, cystitis etc, the root is the more astringent[4, 238]. Externally, they are used as a gargle to treat sore throats, mouth ulcers and gum inflammations[238, 254]. A decoction of the leaves is useful as a gargle in treating thrush and also makes a good general mouthwash[7].
Other Uses
Dye;  Fibre;  Pioneer.

A purple to dull blue dye is obtained from the fruit[168]. A fibre is obtained from the stem and used to make twine[66]. 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[K].
Cultivation details                                         
Easily grown in a good well-drained loamy soil[1, 11, 200]. Succeeds in acid and calcareous soils[186]. Tolerates poor soils[202]. Established plants are drought resistant[132]. Succeeds in sun or semi-shade[1, 11, 200], though it fruits less well in the shade[202]. Plants will also fruit when grown in fairly deep shade or against a north facing wall, though the fruit will ripen later[219]. Plants tolerate quite severe exposure[186]. Hardy to at least -18°c[202]. R. fruticosus is an aggregate species made up of several hundred slightly differing species. The reason for this is that most seed is produced by a non-sexual method (Apomixis) and is therefore genetically identical to the parent plant. On occasions when sexual production of seed takes place the offspring will all be slightly different from the parent plant and will then usually reproduce as a new species by means of apomixy. Modern treatment of this aggregate usually does not use the name R. fruticosus because of the confusion over which species it should apply to, the type species of the aggregate should be called R. ulmifolius[150]. The following members of the aggregate have been highly recommended for their fruit[150]. R. badius. R. cyclophorus. R. gratus. R. nemoralis. R. oxyanchus. R. pyramidalis. R. separinus. R. winteri. The following members are said to be nearly as good. R. balfourianus. R. broensis. R. carpinifolius. R. foliosus. R. fuscoviridis. R. infestus. R. insericatus newbouldianus. R. koehleri. R. largificus. R. londinensis. R. ludensis. R. macrophyllus. R. obscurus. R. pseudo-bifrons. R. rhombifolius. R. riddelsdellii. R. scaber. R. thyrsiflorus. R. vallisparsus. R. vestitus. Plants form dense thickets and this makes excellent cover for birds[186]. They regenerate freely after being cut back[186]. This species is also a good plant for bees and butterflies[24]. This species has biennial stems, it produces a number of new stems each year from the perennial rootstock, these stems fruit in their second year and then die[200]. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200].
Seed - requires stratification and is best sown in early autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed requires one month stratification at about 3°c and is best sown as early as possible in the year. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a cold frame. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame[200]. Tip layering in July. Plant out in autumn. Division in early spring or just before leaf-fall in the autumn[200].
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[5]Mabey. R. Food for Free.
Edible wild plants found in Britain. Fairly comprehensive, very few pictures and rather optimistic on the desirability of some of the plants.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[9]Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[12]Loewenfeld. C. and Back. P. Britain's Wild Larder.
A handy pocket guide.
[17]Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles.
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[24]Baines. C. Making a Wildlife Garden.
Fairly good with lots of ideas about creating wildlife areas in the garden.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[66]Freethy. R. From Agar to Zenery.
Very readable, giving details on plant uses based on the authors own experiences.
[132]Bianchini. F., Corbetta. F. and Pistoia. M. Fruits of the Earth.
Lovely pictures, a very readable book.
[150]Watson. W. C. R. Handbook of the Rubi of Great Britain and Ireland.
There are hundreds of slightly differing species of the common blackberry growing in Britain. This is a book for the dedicated.
[165]Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism.
An excellent small herbal.
[168]Grae. I. Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants.
A very good and readable book on dyeing.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[186]Beckett. G. and K. Planting Native Trees and Shrubs.
An excellent guide to native British trees and shrubs with lots of details about the plants.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[202]Davis. B. Climbers and Wall Shrubs.
Contains information on 2,000 species and cultivars, giving details of cultivation requirements. The text is terse but informative.
[219]Grey-Wilson. C. & Matthews. V. Gardening on Walls
A nice little book about plants for growing against walls and a small section on plants that can grow in walls.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[244]Phillips. R. & Foy. N. Herbs
Deals with all types of herbs including medicinal, culinary, scented and dye plants. Excellent photographs with quite good information on each plant.
[254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
Tue Jun 13 2006
This plant has grown out of control in the undergrowth of our garden and now that we have cut back our shrubs we have found it difficult to control the growth of these thorny canes. They are sprouting up everywhere and we have small children in the garden and are worried. Would a week killer kill these prickly canes off.
Elizabeth H.
The Jolly Roger Sun May 6 2007
You have no need to worry about your children, these are blackberry vines, not gestapos. Also I would think that if that didn't kill them, it would at least kill week.
Elizabeth H.
Phil Brough Sun Mar 2 2008
I have just planted rubus fruticosus and dont know if I have to prune immediately after planting - any advice
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