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The blackberry is an edible berry in the Rubus genus and the Rosaceae family. The fruit are botanically termed an aggregate fruit and they are produced on plants that typically have biennial canes and perennial roots. Blackberries and raspberries are also called caneberries or brambles. It is a widespread, and well known group of several hundred species, many of which are closely related apomictic microspecies native throughout the temperate Northern hemispheremarker and South America.

Growth and anatomical description

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

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 flower buds break to produce flowering laterals, which bear smaller leaves with three or five leaflets. First and second year shoots are usually spiny with numerous short curved very sharp thorn (thornless cultivars have been developed purposefully). Recently the University of Arkansas has developed primocane fruiting blackberries that grow and flower on first year growth much as the primocane (also called fall bearing or everbearing) fruiting red raspberries.

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.

The flowers are produced in late spring and early summer on short racemes on the tips of the flowering laterals. Each flower is about 2-3 cm in diameter with five white or pale pink petals. The newly developed primocane fruiting produces flowers and fruits on the new growth.

A bee pollinating blackberries
The early flowers typically form more drupelets than the later ones as they develop more fully as the flower buds develop during the dormant period. This can also be a symptom of exhausted reserves in the plant's roots, marginal pollinator populations, or infection with a virus such as Raspberry bushy dwarf virus. 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. The drupelets only develop around ovules that are fertilized by the male gamete from a pollen grain.

In botanical terminology, the fruit is not a berry, but an aggregate fruit of numerous drupelets ripening to black or dark purple.

Blackberry leaves are also a food for certain caterpillars and grazing mammals, especially deer, are very fond of the leaves. See List of Lepidoptera that feed on Rubus

Cultivation and uses

Primary cultivation takes place in the state of Oregonmarker located in the United States of Americamarker. Recorded in 1995 and 2006: to of blackberries, producing 42.6 to 41.5 million pounds, making Oregon the leading blackberry producer in the world.. While Oregon may lead the world in volume of fruit produced, Serbia has tremendous acreage and Mexico has had dramatically increasing acreage and will soon lead the world in hectarage and production.

The soft fruit is popular for use in desserts, jams, seedless jellies and sometimes wine. Since the many species form hybrid easily, there are numerous cultivars with more than one species in their ancestry.

Good nectar producers, blackberry shrubs bearing flowers yield a medium to dark, fruity honey.

Blackberry flower.
The blackberry is known to contain polyphenol antioxidants, naturally occurring chemicals that can upregulate certain beneficial metabolic processes in mammals. The astringent blackberry root is sometimes used in herbal medicine as a treatment for diarrhea and dysentery.The related but smaller dewberry can be distinguished by the white, waxy coating on the fruits, which also usually have fewer drupelets. (Rubus caesius) is in its own section (Caesii) within the subgenus Rubus.

In some parts of the world, such as in Australia, Chilemarker, New Zealandmarker and the Pacific Northwest region of North America, some blackberry species, particularly Rubus armeniacus (syn. R. procerus, 'Himalaya') and Rubus laciniatus ('Evergreen') are naturalised and considered an invasive species and a serious weed.

As there is forensic evidence from the Iron Age Haraldskær Woman that she consumed blackberries some 2500 years ago, it is reasonable to conclude that blackberries have been eaten by humans over thousands of years.

Commercial cultivars

Black Butte blackberry.
Numerous cultivars have been selected for commercial and amateur cultivation in Europe and United States.

'Marion' (marketed as "marionberry") is an important cultivar that was selected from seedlings from a cross between 'Chehalem' and 'Olallie' (commonly called "olallieberry") berries. It is claimed to "capture the best attributes of both berries and yields an aromatic bouquet and an intense blackberry flavor". The marionberry was introduced by George F. Waldo of the USDA-ARS in Corvallis, Oregonmarker in 1956. Adapted to Western Oregonmarker, the marionberry is named after Marion County, Oregonmarker, in which it was tested extensively. '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 Agriculturemarker Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) blackberry breeding program at Oregon State Universitymarker in Corvallis, Oregonmarker.

The most recent cultivars released from this program are the thornless 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 'Waldo', 'Siskiyou', 'Black Butte', 'Kotata', 'Pacific' and 'Cascade'.

Trailing blackberries are vigorous, crown forming, require a trellis for support, and are less cold hardy than the erect or semi-erect blackberries. In addition to the U.S. Pacific Northwest, these types do well in similar climates such as the United Kingdommarker, New Zealandmarker, Chilemarker, and the Mediterraneanmarker countries.

Semi-erect, thornless blackberries were first developed at the John Innes Centre in Norwichmarker, UK, and subsequently by the USDA-ARS in Beltsville, Marylandmarker. These are crown forming, very vigorous, and need a trellis for support. Cultivars include 'Black Satin' 'Chester Thornless', 'Dirksen Thornless', 'Hull Thornless', 'Loch Ness', 'Loch Tay', 'Merton Thornless', 'Smoothstem' and 'Triple Crown'. Recently, 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 Arkansasmarker 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 thornless and thorny cultivars from this program, including 'Navaho', 'Ouachita', 'Cherokee', 'Apache', 'Arapaho' and 'Kiowa'. They are also responsible for developing the primocane fruiting blackberries such as 'Prime-Jan' and 'Prime-Jim'.

In raspberries, these types are called primocane fruiting, fall fruiting, or everbearing. 'Prime-Jim' and 'Prime-Jan' were released in 2004 and are the first cultivars of primocane fruiting blackberry. They grow much like the other erect cultivars described above, however the canes that emerge in the spring, will flower in mid-summer 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.

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

The blackberry tends to be red during its unripe ("green") phase, leading to an old expression that "blackberries are red when they're green".

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

Blackberry production in Mexicomarker has expanded enormously in the past decade. 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 blackberr" as parents. 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 Mexicomarker 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.

Nutrients and antioxidant qualities

Blackberries are notable for their high nutritional contents of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid - a B vitamin, and the essential mineral, manganese (table).

Nutrients in raw blackberries
Nutrient Value per 100 grams % Daily Value
Energy 43 kcal
Fiber, total dietary 5.3 g 21%
Sugars, total 4.9 g
Calcium, Ca 29 mg 3%
Magnesium, Mg 20 mg 5%
Manganese, Mn 0.6 mg 32%
Copper, Cu 0.2 mg 8%
Potassium, K 162 mg 5%
Sodium, Na 1 mg 0%
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid 21 mg 35%
Vitamin A, IU 214 IU 4%
Vitamin K, µg 20 µg 25%
Folic acid, µg 36 µg 9%
Carotene, beta 128 µg ne
Lutein + zeaxanthin 118 µg ne
ne: Daily Value not established

Blackberries rank highly among fruits for antioxidant strength, particularly due to their dense contents of polyphenolic compounds, such as ellagic acid, tannins, ellagitannins, quercetin, gallic acid, anthocyanins and cyanidins.

Blackberries have an ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of 5347 per 100 grams, including them among the top-ranked ORAC fruits. Another report using a different assay for assessing antioxidant strength placed blackberry at the top of more than 1000 antioxidant foods consumed in the United States.

Nutrient content of seeds

Blackberries are exceptional among other Rubus berries for their numerous, large seeds not always preferred by consumers. They contain rich amounts of omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and -6 fats (linoleic acid), protein, dietary fiber, carotenoids, ellagitannins and ellagic acid.

Superstition and myths

Superstition in the UKmarker holds that blackberries should not be picked after Michaelmas (29 September) as the devil has claimed them, having left a mark on the leaves by urinating on them. There is some value behind this legend as after this date 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.


Image:blackberries in june.JPG|Blackberry bush in late June in UK.File:Blackberry with fruits2.jpg|Blackberry bush in late July in Germany.Image:Aa bramble tipflowering 00.jpg|13 August 2007, Manchestermarker, England. Bramble; in background unripe fruit on second-year side shoots; late flowers from tip-flowering of first-year growthFile:Blackberry2500px.JPG|A wild blackberry vine.

See also


  1. Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  2. University of Georgia, Blackberries and Raspberries (Rubus spp.). Retrieved on 2008-03-26.
  3. Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. ISBN 0-340-40170-2.
  4. Grieve, M. (1971). A Modern Herbal ISBN 0486227987
  5. Evergreen blackberry, Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission
  6. Marionberry, Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission
  7. Thornless processing blackberry cultivars, Horticultural Crop Research, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture
  8. Antunes, L.E.C. & Rassieira, M.C.B. (2004). Aspectos Técnicos da Cultura da Amora-Preta. ISSN 1516-8840.
  9., nutrient data for this listing provided by USDA SR20
  10. Conkers and Ghosts: Traditional Customs and Folktales for September
  11. British Culture: Facts about September

External links

Image:Blackberry fruits10.jpg|Blackberry fruitImage:Blackberry bush with fruit.jpg|Many ripe blackberriesImage:Spines on blackberry.jpg|ThornsImage:Blackberry fruit formation 0698.JPG|Pollinated, developing blackberryImage:Rubus fructicosus łodyga 333.jpgImage:Blackberries on a right hand-8.jpg|Blackberries on a right hand

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