Blackberry

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 botanical name of blackberry is Rubus Fruticosus. Native chiefly to north temperate regions, wild blackberries are particularly abundant in eastern North America and on the Pacific coast of that continent and are cultivated in many areas of North America and Europe.



Closely related to raspberries (also in the Rubus genus), blackberry plants have biennial canes (stems) covered with prickles and grow erect, semi erect, or with trailing stems. The compound leaves usually feature three or five oval, coarsely toothed, stalked leaflets, many of which persist through the winter. Borne on terminal clusters, the flowers are white, pink, or red and produce black or red-purple fruits. Though commonly called berries, the fruits of Rubus species are technically aggregates of drupelets.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

3 - 20 feet


Width-Circumference (Avg)

3 - 10 feet


Approximate pH

5.5 - 7.0


Growth Nutrition of Blackberry


Nutrients needed for proper blackberry growth are Nitrogen (basic plant growth), Phosphorus (metabolism; stimulate root growth), Potassium (stomatal opening and closing; movement of nitrates), Calcium (cell wall formation; cell division and elongation), Magnesium (chlorophyll production; nitrogen metabolism), Boron (auxin activity), Zinc (auxin production), Iron (chlorophyll production), Sulfur (hardening off for cold/drought tolerance), Manganese (phosphorus and magnesium uptake) and Molybdenum (nitrogen metabolism)


Types of Blackberry


Blackberries are usually categorized according to their growth habit:

  • Erect thorny blackberries grow upright and don't require support for the canes. They have very sharp spines on the canes—sharp enough to tear clothing.

  • Erect thornless blackberries are similar, but have canes without the prickly thorns. They, too, require no trellis supports.

  • Semi-erect blackberries come in both thorned and thornless cultivars which produce more prodigiously then the erect cultivars. Their fruit is also quite large and may vary in flavor, from tart to sweet. These berries do need some support.

  • Trailing thornless blackberries have sprawling canes that require a trellis or system of wires to hold them up above the ground.


Thornless Types of Blackberries


Many growers prefer thornless blackberries because they’re much easier to harvest and maintain. Here are some of the top thornless blackberry types.


Apache


While most blackberry cultivars have thorns on its plants, apache blackberries came from the thornless blackberry varieties. Similar to the Arapaho blackberry varieties, apache is from the family of erect blackberries. That means the plant shoots in an upright position.



This thornless blackberry plant produces the largest fruits among the different blackberry cultivars. Since it produces the largest blackberry fruit, it also has larger seeds in it. The apache blackberry also produces heavy crops and is widely chosen for its great flavor, good yield and very large fruit.


Arapaho


Arapaho belongs to the cultivars of erect blackberries that grow on the upright growth habit. Arapaho plant is also a thornless blackberry variety that has a hard texture. It produces large red and black berries.



These blackberry species also ripens at an early stage. The fruit of Arapaho blackberries are firm, that is why they are ideal to be made into jams and syrups. They also taste sweet and contain small seeds.



Chester


Chester blackberries are extra-large with a richly complex flavor. They’re thornless, semi-erect blackberries that benefit from trellising. Their prolific crop ripens in late July to mid-August.



Chester plant produces the largest fruits on the thornless varieties of blackberries. Just imagine that a basket can be filled with 45 chester blackberries. Its shrub will sprout flowers which are light pink in color and decorative. The berry that the chester plant produces has a sweet flavor with juicy texture. They’re both heat-tolerant and disease-resistant, especially against cane blight.


Navaho



Navaho is an erect, thornless blackberry variety that begins fruiting in mid-June. It’s one of the few cultivars resistant to double blossom disease, prevalent in the southeastern United States. The plants are heavy producers and fast growers.


Triple Crown


The triple crown blackberry also came from the cultivars of thornless blackberry varieties. Released by the U.S Department of Agriculture and the Pacific West Agricultural Research Service, home gardeners would love to plant this type on fruiting cranes. It has a semi-erect and thornless blackberry plant that bears large and flavorful blackberry fruits.



The large size berry is firm and glossy with a sweet flavor with no hint of the acidity that you might taste on other blackberry varieties. Since it is thornless, picking the delicious berry fruits on the plants should be a breeze.


Ouachita



This exceptional blackberry variety produces high yields of deliciously sweet, medium-sized berries starting in mid-June. The plants are thornless with an erect growth habit. These easy-to-grow blackberry plants are heat-tolerant and disease-resistant. They can withstand double blossom disease, also known as rosette disease.


Thorny Blackberry Types


Don’t let the thorny blackberry vines deter you from trying a few of these delicious types of blackberries. With regular pruning, they are manageable.


Kiowa



These impressive blackberry plants produce the largest berries of any cultivar, averaging three inches long. Kiowa is a thorny, erect blackberry type that fruits earlier and longer than many other varieties, beginning in early June.


Ark 45


Prime Ark 45 is a variety from the Primocane-Fruiting Blackberries which is a new blackberry cultivar from the University of Arkansas breeding program. It is a thorny blackberry type which belongs to the erect blackberry varieties.



In some northern areas, ripening of these berries might be in early to mid-September season. Ark 45 produces large berries with sweet and classic blackberry taste.


Semi-Erect Blackberry Varieties


As the name suggests, semi-erect blackberries stake out a middle ground between erect and trailing varieties. Like trailing cultivars, they should ideally be trellised for support. The berries aren't as tasty as those from trailing varieties, but they compensate with very heavy yields and thornless canes that make for easy picking.


Semi-erect cultivars include 'Loch Ness,' 'Black Satin' and 'Hull Thornless,' but 'Triple Crown' offers better flavor and higher yields than most others.


Loch Ness


This type of blackberry is from the thornless bush varieties. It produces a fruit with a firm texture and sweet taste. It also thrives in areas with good sunlight and well-drained soil. This berry type can be planted in your garden, whether big or small.



Loch ness flowers are not so large, but they will blossom into a white, big clusters of flowers. These berries also provide a delectable taste, both cooked or fresh.


Trailing Blackberry Varieties


Trailing varieties are native to much of the continent, with Rubus ursinus being the most common in the Pacific Northwest. They grow on long canes, sometimes up to 20 feet in length, which require a trellis, arbor or some other form of support to elevate the canes. Trailing varieties aren't cold-hardy, and severe winters can kill the canes before they fruit, which can affect gardeners at higher altitudes and in colder microclimates.

Trailing varieties yield large, elongated berries with excellent flavor and aroma and small seeds, so they're popular in their own right or as the base for hybrids. 'Obsidian,' 'Silvan,' 'Columbia Star' and the thornless 'Wild Treasure' are all good trailing varieties for home growers, and so are hybrids such as 'Marion' and 'Olallie.'


Marion Berry


This blackberry cultivar is also developed by the United States Department of Agriculture ARS breeding program, together with Oregon State University. Marion berry has been created by cross-pollinating the Chehalem and Olallie varieties which make it a hybrid.



Just like the common varieties of blackberries, marion berry also contains high levels of antioxidants, as well as other natural vitamins and minerals. Gallic acid and rutin is also present on this berry, which promotes healthy blood circulation on the body.


Columbia Star


Columbia star is part of the trailing and thornless varieties of blackberries. This berry is inspired by the importance of the Columbia River in geography. It also emphasizes the history of the Pacific Northwest.



This berry plant grows well in a location with plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil. The plant is also hardy and can grow up to 5 feet tall. If you are looking for a savory food or sweet treat, this berry will not disappoint as its fruits provide a firm texture with sweet and savory taste.


Planting Blackberries


When to Plant Blackberries

  • Plant when the canes are dormant, preferably in early spring.

  • Planting may also be done in late fall, however, it should be delayed until early spring in very cold areas as low temperatures could kill some hybrid varieties.

  • Blackberries and their hybrids are all self-fertile, so multiple plants are not needed for fruit production.


Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site

  • Select a site that receives full sun for the best berry yields.

  • Soil needs to be fertile with good drainage. Add organic content to enrich your soil.

  • Make sure you plant your blackberries far away from wild blackberries, which may carry (plant) diseases that could weaken your own plants.


How to Plant Blackberries

  • For semi-erect cultivars, space plants 5 to 6 feet apart. Space erect cultivars 3 feet apart. Space trailing varieties 5 to 8 feet apart. Space rows about 8 feet apart.

  • Plant shallowly: about one inch deeper than they were grown in the nursery.


How to Grow Blackberries in Pots


When growing blackberries in containers, choose a compact cultivar like Baby Cakes that does not need pruning. Choose large containers that hold at least five gallons of soil to prevent drying out.


Blackberry Care


Light


Sites with full sun are best for productive blackberry bushes. Some afternoon shade is tolerated, especially in areas with hot summers.


Soil


Careful site selection will ensure a long life for your blackberries, which usually live for about a decade with proper care. The ideal soil is slightly acidic with good drainage; these plants do not do well in clay soil. An elevated site or raised beds will not only help drainage but will also prevent late spring frosts from damaging flower buds. Remove all weeds that might draw nutrients or water away from your blackberries, as their shallow roots are susceptible to this competition.


Keep a good layer of mulch over the root zone at all times. This will feed the plants, conserve water moisture, and keep weeds down.


Water


Blackberries need moderate amounts of water, around 1 inch per week provided either by rainfall or from ground-level irrigation. Blackberries do not fare well in wet soils.


Temperature and Humidity


Blackberries require a period of cold dormancy to germinate, but because of their shallow root systems, they don't do well in areas where temperatures go below zero degrees routinely. Zones 5 to 8 provide the best environment for blackberries. Cold winter temperatures combined with wet spring soils may lead to plant death. The reverse environment of hot, dry winds is also unfavorable for blackberry growing and may result in stunted, seedy fruits.


Fertilizer


Fertilize your blackberries in the spring when plants are emerging from dormancy, using a balanced 10-10-10 formula. Fertilize plants again in the fall with an application of manure and compost, which will also suppress weeds and improve soil tilth.


Harvesting Blackberries


How to Harvest Blackberries

  • Pick only berries that are fully black. Mature berries are plump yet firm, a deep black color, and pull freely from the plant without a yank. Berries do no ripen after being picked.

  • Once blackberries start to ripen, they must be picked often—every couple of days.

  • When picking, keep the central plug within the fruit (unlike raspberries).

  • Harvest during the cooler parts of the day. Once picked, place berries in the shade and refrigerate as soon as possible


How to Store Blackberries

  • Blackberries are highly perishable and will only last a few days once harvested, even with refrigeration.

  • Although fresh fruit is always best, blackberries can be stored by canning, preserving, or freezing. Techniques used for freezing blueberries can also be used on blackberries.


Pruning and Propagating Blackberries


Pruning


Blackberry roots are perennial but the canes are biennial. This means that second-year canes that have produced their fruit need to be trimmed away after harvesting.


For an established shrub, new canes that haven't yet fruited should be tip-pruned to about 3 feet in summer. This will cause the new canes to branch out, maximizing the fruit produced. Once these canes produce fruit, they should be removed to the ground immediately after the fruit harvest.


In early spring before new growth has started, remove any canes damaged by winter, and thin out the remaining canes to the four or five strongest canes.


Propagating Blackberries


It's easy to propagate blackberry plants from stem cuttings. Cut a 4-inch piece from the end of the stem in late spring when temperatures are mild and rainfall is plenty. Plant it in the soil, and keep it moist. Roots will form in two to four weeks. These newly started plants can be planted in the fall, or you can keep them in a sheltered location and plant them the following spring.


Pests and Diseases


Blackberries are prone to anthracnose, stem blight, and crown gall. Prevent disease by purchasing disease-free plant stock from reputable nurseries, and planting your blackberries away from areas with wild brambles, which may carry these diseases.


Insect pests include stink bugs and raspberry crown borers. Keeping your plants healthy and vigorous will make them less attractive to insect attack.


Blackberries are sometimes afflicted by viral diseases. Raspberry bushy dwarf virus and blackberry calico virus both cause bright yellow splotches to appear on leaves. Affected plants will need to be removed and destroyed.


Benefits of Blackberries


Lower cholesterol level


One of the blackberries benefits includes the reduction in the process of oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by nearly 50 percent. The anthocyanins show a significant reduction in the hardening of the arteries and heart disease.


Prevent Some Cancers


Research suggests that anthocyanins in the berries cannot alter the course of any cancer once it develops. Although a rich anthocyanin diet and adding more berries to your regimen may lower the risk for cancer.


Bolster Brain health


Eating blackberries as a part of your diet can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease caused by aging. Blackberry benefits in antioxidants’ levels that help prevent cell damage from molecules released by toxins and alter the brain neurons.


Keeps your bones stronger


Blackberries are a great source of vitamin K, deficiency of which may cause heavy menstrual bleeding, bone fractures due to bone thinning, blood in the urine or stool, and easy bruising. Blackberry is like the protein for bone development and an excellent source for people who are on blood thinners.


Helps support the digestive system


Blackberries are high in fiber that helps in regulating blood sugar levels and sugar consumption. There are many digestive problems like stomach pain, bloating, and constipation that are linked to a low-fiber diet.


Additionally, there are two types of fiber- soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to maintain a healthy cholesterol level, whereas insoluble does not support healthy digestion. Blackberries are a source of both these fibers.


Healthy eyesight


Vitamin A is responsible for many bodily functions like combating infections & illness and supporting the immune system. Eating blackberries can produce pigments in the eye’s retina that helps in good vision, particularly within dim light.


May Boost Immunity


Blackberries help in improving the immune system of the body, due to the presence of phytoestrogens, vitamins, and minerals. Regular consumption of blackberries helps fight various pathogens and protects the body from infections and other fatal illnesses.


May Help in Normal Blood Clotting


Blackberries contain a good amount of vitamin K, which helps in the normal clotting of blood. It also helps in preventing excessive bleeding from slight injuries and aids in healing wounds. Vitamin K present in blackberries is also essential for protein modification and plays an important role in protecting bones from osteoporosis.


Possibly Useful in Pregnancy


Blackberry is very beneficial for pregnant women. As a source of natural folate, blackberry may contribute to the optimum growth of the cells and tissues and helps reduce the risk of birth defects in babies. Folate is a critical nutrient required for better cellular functioning in all age groups. Vitamin C and other antioxidants help boost the disease-fighting power of the expectant mother, and the presence of essential minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus in blackberry strengthens bones and contributes to keeping her healthy. Besides, it may have a refreshing taste which makes it a healthy option for a quick snack during pregnancy.


Uses

  • Blackberry can be added to fresh fruit salads, baked goods such as tarts, cakes, and pies, or they can be used to prepare jellies or preserves.

  • They can also be combined with other fruits to prepare fruit salsa which can be served with crisps and chips.

  • Blackberry serves as a delicious topping over various desserts including ice creams as well.

  • Blackberries are also used in the preparation of wines and are available in canned and dried forms too.

  • Blackberries are also used to produce candy.

  • Leaves of the blackberry plant have been found effective in curing diarrhea and dysentery since early times, and have also been a topic of interest for modern research.

  • External application of tincture or infusion made from blackberry leaves helps in the constriction of blood vessels and cure small injuries.

  • The astringent qualities of blackberry leaf may also prove useful in soothing a sore throat and treating hemorrhoids.

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