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Himalayan Blackberry Plants - Invasive, Noxious and Beautiful

Updated on February 5, 2016
AliciaC profile image

Linda Crampton is a science teacher with an honors degree in biology. She loves to study nature and write about animals and plants.

Himalayan blackberry
Himalayan blackberry | Source

Delicious Fruit from an Invasive Plant

Every year I look forward to the late summer crop of wild blackberries beside the trails near my home. The thorns and prickles on the blackberry bushes make picking the fruit a challenge, but the berries taste wonderful. They are great to eat fresh from the bush or later as a dessert.

Picking wild 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, which it does if it gets the chance.

The Himalayan blackberry is the species that grows near my home. 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 summer, though. At this time of year it's an attractive plant.

A mature Himalayan blackberry cane and its impressive thorns
A mature Himalayan blackberry cane and its impressive thorns | Source

Stems and Canes

The usual scientific name of the Himalayan blackberry 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 ten feet.

The mature stems of the Himalayan blackberry plant are thick and 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. A cane can grow as long as twelve meters (about thirty nine feet). The stem of the young plant grows upwards at first, but soon it 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) | Source

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

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 plant is an evergreen.

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 armed very well against any creature - including humans - that wants to attack it.

Himalayan Blackberry Identification

Flowers

Canes in their second year of life produce flowers. The flowers of the Himalayan blackberry have five white or pale pink petals and have both male and female reproductive structures. The flowers are born in clusters. Their stems have prickles, ensuring that picking the berry will be a very difficult task unless thick, protective gloves are worn. The "berries" are black or dark purple. Botanists don't classify the fruit as a berry, though. A blackberry or raspberry fruit consists of a group of drupelets. Each drupelet is an individual fruit and contains its own seed.

A Himalayan blackberry flower
A Himalayan blackberry flower | Source
Blackberry flowers and unripe berries
Blackberry flowers and unripe berries | Source

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 pick them to eat right off the bush or from a bowl at home. The berries are also collected to make desserts such as blackberry pies, tarts and cobblers.

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The green berries turn red and then black in late summer and early fall.Ripening blackberriesA ripe blackberry surrounded by unripe onesReady to pick
The green berries turn red and then black in late summer and early fall.
The green berries turn red and then black in late summer and early fall. | Source
Ripening blackberries
Ripening blackberries
A ripe blackberry surrounded by unripe ones
A ripe blackberry surrounded by unripe ones
Ready to pick
Ready to pick | Source

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 wild blackberries 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 which aren't essential for keeping us alive but are thought to help prevent disease.

Another blackberry flower
Another blackberry flower | Source

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, growing and spreading rapidly. It's considered to be a noxious weed because it harms the environment.

The Himalayan blackberry may change the local ecosystem. It forms dense thickets which 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.

Clearing 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 Plants

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 should 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 blackberries 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 any hope of a permanent solution. This can be backbreaking work if it's done by hand and 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 | Source

An Dual and Ambivalent Relationship

Humans have a dual relationship with Himalayan blackberries. Many 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 blackberry plants, 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 the plant, 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 not attractive, however. Since the plant is common where I live and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future, I can continue to photograph its spring and summer beauty.

Red clover beside a blackberry leaf
Red clover beside a blackberry leaf | Source

© 2012 Linda Crampton

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great info and loved the pics!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment, Bill!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 4 years ago from South Africa

      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 :)

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

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

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

      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.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

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

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      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.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      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 !!!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      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.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      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.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 4 years ago from south Florida

      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

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      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.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

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

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      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.

    • Beelady profile image

      Beelady 4 years ago

      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.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

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

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

      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

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

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

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      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.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      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.

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 4 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      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

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      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!

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      wow i love the photos.very beautiful!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the comment, unknown spy.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 4 years ago from Essex, UK

      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:

      https://hubpages.com/education/DinosaursPrehistori...

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

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      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 profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 4 years ago from Essex, UK

      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.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you, Alun.

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

      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.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      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.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      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.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      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.

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