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Himalayan Blackberry: An Invasive Plant and Delicious Fruit

Linda Crampton is a writer and experienced science teacher with an honors degree in biology. She enjoys writing about science and nature.

Himalayan blackberry near my home

Himalayan blackberry near my home

Delicious Fruit From an Invasive Plant

Every year, I look forward to collecting the wild blackberries beside the trails near my home. The thorns and prickles on the bushes make picking the fruit a challenge, but the berries taste wonderful.

Picking blackberries is a popular late summer and early fall activity here in southwestern British Columbia. People are not so happy when the blackberry plant invades their gardens or covers other plants, which it will do if it gets the chance.

The Himalayan blackberry is the species that grows in the wild where I live. It isn’t native to British Columbia and is very invasive. Once the plant has established itself in an area, it’s hard to get rid of.

I enjoy photographing the blackberry in spring and early summer, though. At this time of year, it's an attractive plant with fresh green leaves and white to pink flowers. It loses its attractiveness as it grows and becomes a major nuisance. All of the photos in this article were taken by me as I observed my local plants at various times in the year.

A mature Himalayan blackberry cane and its impressive thorns

A mature Himalayan blackberry cane and its impressive thorns

Stems and Canes

The Himalayan blackberry belongs to the rose family, or the Rosaceae. Its usual scientific name is Rubus armeniacus, but it's sometimes known as Rubus discolor. It grows in many habitats, including the edge of forests, in open woodlands, beside trails and roads, in gardens, beside rivers, and on farmland. It can reach a height of three meters, or almost 10 feet.

The mature stems of the Himalayan blackberry plant are thick and ridged. They are known as canes. The canes are green or red and bear large thorns that have a red base and a sharp, light green point. My close-up photo above makes the thorns look more dramatic than in real life, but they are still a threat to people exploring the plant.

The thorns on the biggest canes could create a painful wound and damage clothing. Evening the finer prickles on the plant are irritating. Removing the plants is painful without the aid of highly protective gloves. In my experience, gardening gloves from supermarkets may not prevent jabs.

A cane can grow as long as 12 meters (about 39 feet). The stem of the young plant grows upwards at first, but it soon bends over in a graceful arch to reach the ground. It then grows along the ground and may send roots into the soil.

A Himalayan blackberry leaf (the large leaf on the left with the five leaflets)

A Himalayan blackberry leaf (the large leaf on the left with the five leaflets)

The prickly and sprawling blackberry bush is sometimes known as a bramble. The word "bramble" may also be used for the fruit of the plant.

Leaves and Leaflets

Each leaf has five leaflets (or sometimes three). These are green on the upper surface and grey-green on the undersurface. The leaflets have a roughly oval shape, a toothed edge, and a pointed tip. The top leaflet is the biggest one. All of the leaflets are attached to a common point, forming what is known as a palmate pattern.

The petioles (leaf stems) branch from the cane in an alternate arrangement and have fine prickles, which like the cane thorns often point backwards. The prickles on the petiole continue along the underside of the midrib of each leaflet.

The plant is said to be evergreen, though in my area it dies back to a large extent in the winter. I know from experience that the plant is still viable at this time of year and that it will grow vigorously when spring arrives. Removing blackberry plants is easiest in winter, as long as the ground isn't frozen.

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Read More From Owlcation

How to Identify a Himalayan Blackberry

Flowers and Berries

Canes in their second year of life produce flowers. The flowers have five white or pale pink petals and have both male and female reproductive structures. They are borne in clusters. Their stems have prickles. The flowers can and do self-pollinate. Cross-pollination also occurs and generally creates more fruit than self-pollination. The flowers are pollinated by insects, especially bees.

The "berries" are black or dark purple. Botanists don't classify the fruit as a berry, however. A blackberry or raspberry fruit consists of a group of drupelets. Each drupelet is an individual fruit and contains its own seed.

Sampling blackberries on a walk has to be done carefully to avoid prickles and thorns. I look for berries that are at the edge of an open section of a bush so that I can pick them without pain.

A Himalayan blackberry flower

A Himalayan blackberry flower

Uses of the Berries

Although the Himalayan blackberry is often a nuisance when it's growing where it's not wanted, it's a popular plant with many people. The ripe blackberries are sweet, juicy, and delicious. People (including me) pick them to eat right off the bush or from a bowl at home.

The berries are also collected to make desserts such as pies, tarts, crumbles, and cobblers. A crumble is a baked dish made from fruit topped with a crumbled mixture of oats, flour, butter, and sugar. A cobbler is a baked dish containing fruit topped with biscuit or pie dough or cake batter. The covering may be added in dollops instead of a continuous layer.

Blackberry plants are appreciated by animals as well as humans. Birds, bears, coyotes, foxes, and squirrels feed on the berries. Bees use the nectar in the flowers to make a honey that is sold commercially.

If you decide to pick wild blackberries, it's important to collect them from plants that you know haven't been treated with a herbicide. Where I live, the local authority posts a sign in advance of a plan to treat plants in a public area with a herbicide. People or organizations with blackberries growing near the borderline of their property may not announce their use of chemicals.

Always be certain that you have identified a plant correctly before you pick any part of it to eat. In addition, avoid collecting it from a polluted area or from one treated by pesticides. If the plant isn't a nuisance, leave some of the specimens untouched so that they can feed animals and/or reproduce.

Nutrients in Blackberries

Blackberries are worth picking. Like other berries, they are rich in nutrients. They could be bought in stores, but wild blackberries can be picked for free. Another advantage of eating the wild fruit is that picking the berries just before eating them ensures that they will contain the maximum concentration of nutrients.

The raw berries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K and a good source of vitamin E. They also provide us with a variety of B vitamins, including folate. In addition, they contain beta-carotene, which our bodies convert into vitamin A.

Blackberries are rich in manganese and copper and provide a useful amount of magnesium, potassium, and other minerals. They also contain an interesting array of phytochemicals, or phytonutrients. These are chemicals that aren't essential for keeping us alive but are thought to help prevent disease.

Someone who wants to experience the nutritional and taste benefits of blackberries might want to investigate species and varieties bred for garden use. Some of these plants are thornless and are less invasive than the Himalayan blackberry.

Another blackberry flower

Another blackberry flower

An individual Himalayan blackberry plant lives for only two or three years. Young plants grow over the dead canes, producing a tangled thicket than can be hard to remove.

An Invasive Plant and a Noxious Weed

The Himalayan blackberry is considered to be native to Armenia and is sometimes called the Armenian blackberry. It was deliberately introduced to Europe in 1835 and to North America in 1885 for its fruit.

It soon "escaped" into the wild via its seeds, which are eaten by birds and pass through their digestive systems unharmed. The plant has become invasive and grows and spreads rapidly. It's considered to be a noxious weed because it harms the environment.

The plant may change the local ecosystem. It forms dense thickets that crowd out many native plants and prevent shade-intolerant plants from growing. The growth of the blackberry bushes can reduce the available land area for farming.

The bushes may prevent plants with deep roots from growing in their normal habitat along riverbanks, resulting in erosion of the banks. Dead blackberry leaves change the composition of the leaf litter.

The prickly thickets prevent some animals from inhabiting the area and block their path to important places, such as water sources. Animals may be trapped or injured by large thorns on the canes. On the other hand, some animals can travel through the thickets, including rats and feral domestic rabbits.

Removing Himalayan Blackberry Plants

The longer that Himalayan blackberry plants are left in an area, the harder they are to remove. It's much easier to remove young plants than mature ones.

How to Get Rid of Himalayan Blackberry

Physical or mechanical methods can remove Himalayan blackberries, but hard manual work or machinery may be required. It's easiest to remove the plants while they are young and relatively weak.

Frequently mowing the above-ground parts of the plants to destroy their leaves may eventually starve them. Digging deeply to remove all of the root can eliminate a blackberry bush. (The plant can grow from a piece of root or stem.)

Some herbicides can help to destroy the plants, but these mustn't be used in areas where people collect blackberries. Another problem is that herbicides may be harmful for the environment.

It's easy to monitor frequently visited areas like gardens and landscaped areas to check for the first appearance of a blackberry plant. In unmonitored areas, though, when the plants are discovered they may have already formed a dense and impenetrable thicket. This situation requires determination and daily effort in order to remove the plants, but it can be done, as I know from experience.

A strong lopper that can cut through thick stems is an essential tool. Once the visible parts of the plants are removed, the roots must be dug out in order to have the best chance of a permanent solution. This can be backbreaking work if it's done by hand. The roots are large.

When the land is cleared, it's important to watch for a resurgence from seeds or bits of roots and stems. A minor regrowth can be dealt with quickly. It would be sad to let a plant gain the upper hand again after all the hard work done to remove it.

A bird's-foot trefoil beside a young blackberry leaf

A bird's-foot trefoil beside a young blackberry leaf

An Ambivalent Attitude

Humans seem to have an ambivalent attitude towards Himalayan blackberries. Some people would hate the plants to disappear because they love the berries or the honey made from the berries. Other people hate the aggressive growth of the plant and the fact that it interferes with native plants and animals.

Some people, like me, appreciate both sides of the debate. It's sad to see a wild area or a garden choked by brambles, but the fruit is delicious.

The Himalayan blackberry is widespread in southwestern British Columbia. It has become such a common part of the landscape that many people are unaware that it's an introduced plant. I can’t help admiring it, not only for its delicious and bountiful fruit but also for the beauty of its fresh leaves, flowers, and berries.

I have to admit that the dull green leaves of winter and the old, exposed canes are unattractive, however. In addition, the plant's vigorous growth and habit of covering everything in its path can be hard to deal with.

Since the blackberry is common where I live and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future, I continue to photograph its spring and summer beauty and to pick its berries. If it dares to make an appearance in my garden, however, I remove it as soon as I see it. It's an unwelcome visitor, despite its lovely fruit.

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) beside a blackberry leaf

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) beside a blackberry leaf


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Do the Himalayan blackberry bushes spread across refuge areas?

Answer: If you are referring to a wildlife or nature refuge, the answer is yes, the blackberry may spread through the area. The species is very invasive and often grows vigorously. If the environment is suitable for the growth of the canes and if the plants aren't damaged by the activities of wildlife or other factors, they may become a problem.

Question: Are the Himalayan blackberry root tubers edible?

Answer: I collect Himalayan blackberry fruits to eat every year, but I’ve never considered eating any other part of the plant. In all my reading, I’ve never encountered any reference to someone eating the root (or the root tuber). Therefore I have to say no, the roots aren’t edible, simply because I don’t whether they are safe or dangerous.

Many plants have one part that is edible and another part that is unsafe to eat. The edibility and deliciousness of Himalayan blackberry fruits doesn’t mean that the roots are safe. Plants or parts of plants shouldn’t be eaten unless there is definite evidence that they are safe.

Question: How did the Himalayan blackberry originally come to North America in 1885?

Answer: The Himalayan blackberry is believed to have been deliberately introduced to North America as a cultivated crop. I assume that the person or people who did this were attracted by the tasty fruit and wanted to pick it on their property. Unfortunately, the plant soon spread from cultivated areas and became naturalized. Today it appears to be a plant that is a natural member of the community instead of an introduced one.

© 2012 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on November 29, 2018:

Hi. Where I live, the leaves stay green in winter. A few leaves become yellow, however, which means they are dead or dying. The plant doesn't flower in winter. I hope your plant does better in the spring.

Tanzil on November 29, 2018:

Hi. I am from Bangladesh, here blackberries and blackberry plants are considered as something so special cuz these are not avilable here that much

After searching for few years i was able to find and buy a himalayan blackberry plant and i planted it in a huge pot and kept it in rooftop, it grew so large and vast by time. But now i started noticing that the old canes' leaves are turning yellow, is it a sign of flowering time? (its winter here now)

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 13, 2014:

Hi, Peg. Yes, blackberry cobblers and pies are delicious! I'm picking blackberries every day right now where I live. There are already some that are ripe. Thank you so much for all the comments and for liking my Facebook page, Peg.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on August 13, 2014:

This is informative and useful with beautiful photos. Blackberries are so wonderful to eat and so good for us. I loved reading about your habit of picking wild ones for harvest. I had no idea they were an invasive species. With their means of protection, thorns, it would make sense. I love to make them into blackberry cobbler.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 13, 2014:

I consider blackberries a delicacy, too! I love picking them and eating them right away without even taking them home. It's such a shame that the plant is so invasive and is such a nuisance when it's growing where it's not wanted. Thanks for the visit.

ologsinquito from USA on August 13, 2014:

It is very difficult for those of us living in other parts of the country, who consider blackberries a delicacy, to even imagine these plants could ever be considered a nuisance. But I believe you.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 31, 2012:

Thank you, Alun.

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on October 31, 2012:

My pleasure AliciaC. I'll probably have the review online within the next week, so I hope it attracts one or two more visitors to this fine hub page. Alun.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 29, 2012:

Thank you very much for the comment, Alun. I appreciate your visit and the request. Yes, it would be okay to use one of my photos in your hub. Thank you in advance for the mention!

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on October 29, 2012:

Excellent hub AliciaC with very fine photos to illustrate the blackberry plants. Particularly I admire the focusing on the picture of the thorny blackberry stem. A very good study of the Himalayan blackberry - its good points and its bad (and very sharp!) points. Voted up.

I am currently writing a review of 10 of the best hubs on the subject of wild plants and would like to include this one to promote it. To do so, I need to include one photo to represent the hub , so I wonder if this is OK with you? To illustrate the kind of reviews I write, and the use to which the photo is put, you can find one of my previous reviews at the following link:

The hub will probably be published in about one week or so. Best wishes. Alun.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 27, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, unknown spy.

Life Under Construction from Neverland on August 27, 2012:

wow i love the photos.very beautiful!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 04, 2012:

Hi, CMHypno. Thanks for the comment. Yes, it's very difficult to separate the benefits and the disadvantages of blackberries! The fruits are delicious, but blackberry thickets are hard to penetrate, and they cover other plants. I'm looking forward to picking the berries soon, though!

CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on August 04, 2012:

Interesting hub Alicia. I have picked blackberries here in the UK since I was a child, and never realised that they were an invasive species. With something like the blackberry it is difficult to separate the benefits of the fruit and the problems caused by their impact on native species

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 28, 2012:

I'm looking forward to picking ripe blackberries too, moonlake! We have a problem with wild blackberries trying to invade our garden, but not with wild raspberries. Thank you very much for the comment and vote.

moonlake from America on July 28, 2012:

My husband is just waiting for our blackberries to get ripe. He loves to pick them. The blackberries here don't seem to get so wild. We have problems with wild raspberries getting into everything. Beautiful picture and interesting hub enjoyed reading it. Voted up.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 28, 2012:

Thank you very much for the lovely comment, Prasetio! I appreciate all your votes. Have a great weekend!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on July 28, 2012:

Alicia, you always do the best in every of your hubs, including this one. I had never heard about Himalayan Blackberry plants. Thanks for share with us. I learn something new here. Voted up and pressing all buttons, except funny.

Cheers, Prasetio

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 24, 2012:

Thank you for the comment and the interesting information, Beelady. It's very nice to meet you!

Beelady on July 24, 2012:

It would seem that plants that have evolved to live in the harsh environment of the Himalayas have too much of an easy time in more forgiving environments. Our canal is currently overrun with the invasive Himlayan balsam - though bees love it! Thanks for a superbly informative hub.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 23, 2012:

Thank you very much for the comment, teaches. I find nature and the study of living things endlessly fascinating! I love to observe nature and learn more about it.

Dianna Mendez on July 23, 2012:

I don't know how you find these interesting topics but I am always fascinated by the details. Great job on covering this plant.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 23, 2012:

Thank you, drbj. My mother and my aunt were both keen bakers, and they gave me my memories of wonderful cakes and pies. It's never quite the same when I make my own versions.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on July 23, 2012:

My grandmother used to bake delicious blackberry pies so you brought back lots of pleasant memories with this lovely looking hub, Alicia, and beautiful photos. Thank you

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 23, 2012:

Thank you, Tom. Although the rapid growth of blackberry plants can be a problem, I enjoy studying them and photographing them. If they can be kept in one particular area without spreading they're a useful plant.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 23, 2012:

Hi, theragged edge. Yes, that's the problem with blackberry plants. If they're not controlled they can quickly grow over over other things and take over the land. Their berries are so nice, though! I'm looking forward to making blackberry pies next month, and fruit crumbles sound like a very nice idea too! Thanks for the comment and the vote.

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on July 23, 2012:

Hi my friend, great and well written hub with all good information on the Himalayan Blackberry Plants, loved all the very beautiful photos in this hub, well done !

Vote up and more !!!

Bev G from Wales, UK on July 23, 2012:

Very difficult to get rid of. We have a small paddock behind our house - not our land. When we moved in 10 years ago it was mostly grass. Now it is just a great heap of brambles - I think there is even a car in there somewhere!

Used to pick a lot of blackberries and make blackberry jelly, blackberry and apple pie, and fruit crumbles. Maybe I should again - it's almost blackberry season here.

Nice hub, voted up.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 23, 2012:

Thanks, Joyce. I appreciate the comment and the vote. I've picked wild blackberries since childhood. It's a lovely summer tradition!

Joyce Haragsim from Southern Nevada on July 23, 2012:

I grew up with wild blackberries in England. We would just pick them their branch's and have a delicious snack.

Great hub and tons of interesting information .

Voted up and interesting, Joyce.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 23, 2012:

Thank you so much for the kind comment, Martie! I appreciate your visit very much.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on July 23, 2012:

Alicia, this is a very interesting and well-presented hub about the Himalayan Blackberry plants. The quality of the pictures, too, is perfect.

I am always in awe of your hubs :)

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 23, 2012:

Thank you very much for the comment, Bill!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 23, 2012:

Great info and loved the pics!

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