Blackberries - Rubus spp. - (Brambles)
Native Shrubs ... in wildlife
West Virginia Native Plant Society
West Virginia Nongame Wildlife Program
||The genus Rubus is very
difficult to identify to an individual species. There are
about 20 species in West Virginia.
||Bark and Twigs:
||Erect stems, 3 to 5 feet tall, angled
cross-section, curving or sprawling canes that tend to
form large thickets from root suckers. They are perennial
from roots. Many species are biennial -- the first-year
growth (primocane) of leaves and stem but bearing no
flowers -- the second-year growth (floricane) producing a
different set of leaves with flowers and fruits. The
stems armed with spines - often without spines at higher
elevations and heavily armed at lower elevations.
||Deciduous, alternate, compound, usually
5 leaflets, small spines usually on leaf margins.
||White, 5 petals and many stamens, in
various sized clusters.
||Black, usually elongated and round,
sweet and edible. The receptacle becomes fleshy and is
removed with the berry. These are the well known
raspberries and blackberries.
- Throughout West Virginia.
- Natural Habitat:
- Generally occupy old fields and woodland clearings. They
will gradually disappear as the forest returns. Allegheny
blackberry and many other blackberries are common in dry
places from lowlands to uplands, in woodland openings,
along road-sides, in old fields, fencerows, clearings and
thickets. Canadian blackberry, one of the taller and
later-flowering species is very common in woods, old
fields, cool hollows and along roadsides, mostly in the
- Wildlife Use:
- The most abundant and valuable summer food for wildlife
in West Virginia. Juicy berries are preferred but even
dried berries persisting on the canes into fall and
winter are eaten to some extent. Birds are especially
prominent users of the fruit. The birds include ruffed
grouse, bobwhite, catbird, cardinal, chat, robin, orchard
oriole, summer tanger, brown thrasher, thrushes and
towhee. The fruits are also very important to animals
such as black bear, raccoon, squirrels, and chipmunk.
Stems and leaves are extensively eaten by deer and
rabbits. The flowers are an excellent food source for
bees, butterflies and moths.
The dense thickets provide valuable cover for birds,
rabbits, and other smaller animals. Blackberry thickets
are also common nesting sites for small birds.
- Uses: Large masses, borders or barriers.
Light: Very light shade to full
Soil Moisture: Moist sites are best,
though various species thrive in all ranges of soil
Soil pH: Will tolerate a wide range.
Problems: Most species are free of
insect and disease problems. An orange rust (Gymnoconia
peckiana) often discolors leaves in West Virginia.
Thickets becoming too large from root suckers can be a
problem. The sharp spines can be a problem for young
Compiled by: Holly Dryer-Creasy, naturalist
and amateur botanist, Fairmont, West Virginia
Written by West Virginia Native Plant Society
members and jointly published with the WV Nongame Program
Illustration from Flora of West Virginia,
Strausbaugh and Core