Rubus fruticosus (blackberry)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Impact: Biodiversity
- Threatened Species
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Rubus fruticosus L.
Preferred Common Name
Other Scientific Names
- Rubus fruticosa
International Common Names
- English: bramble; European blackberry; scaldhead; shrubby blackberry; wild blackberry; wild blackberry complex
- Spanish: zarza; zarzamora; zarzamora comun
- French: murier; murier sauvage; ronce; ronce commune
- Portuguese: amora silvestre; silva
Local Common Names
- Croatia: obicna kupina
- Denmark: almindelig brombær; brombær; klynger
- Finland: karhunvattu; oimuvatukka
- Germany: Echte Brombeere
- Italy: mora di rovo; rogo; roveto; rovo
- Netherlands: bosbraam; braam; braambes; gewone braam
- Norway: björnbär; sötbjörnbär
- Poland: jerzyna; jezyna; jezyna faldowana; jezyna krzewiasta
- Sweden: bjoernbaer; bjønnbær; bjørnebær; søtbjønnbær
- RUBFR (Rubus fruticosus)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
R. fruticosus is highly invasive in some areas, it competes aggressively with native species and can therefore exclude and replace native vegetation, it forms thickets rapidly with a dense canopy of shade and can threaten sensitive and fragile ecosystems. R. fruticosus is a regulated noxious weed in Australia, New Zealand and the USA. However, it is still a widely grown commercial fruit species and as such, further imports of plant material are likely.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Rosales
- Family: Rosaceae
- Genus: Rubus
- Species: Rubus fruticosus
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The original Linnaean Rubus fruticosus L., senso typo, has been treated as a broad complex, an aggregate of several slightly differing species that belong to several sections and subsections. Over 300 species have been recognized in the UK (Clapham et al., 1952). For a full list of species included refer to Tutin et al. (1968) and Floraweb (2003). Edees and Newton (1988) published a taxonomic account of Rubus in Britain listing 307 species. There are a greater number in continental Europe, although taxonomic studies are incomplete. In eastern USA, their taxonomy is also unresolved and further complicated by horticultural introductions. Evans et al. (2007) has used RFLPs to examine the systematics of the R. fruticosus aggregate in Australia, correlating 35 DNA phenotypes with 15 taxa. Almost all species of Rubus are agamospecies, segregated from R. fruticosus L. Many of these species arose during the Pleistocene era as a result of hybridization and apomixis (reproduction by seeds which develop without sexual fusion; Tutin et al., 1968). Due to this facultative apomixis, the seed is genetically identical to the parent plant. In the case of the less frequent sexual production, the offspring will be slightly different from the parent plant and will then usually reproduce as a new species by means of apomixis. In combination with the ability of Rubus to spread vegetatively over large areas, this has the consequence that the slightest variation tends to persist and to become recognised as a species, complicating the taxonomy. As such, this datasheet covers R. fruticosus in its broadest aggregate sense.
DescriptionTop of page
R. fruticosus is a very prickly, scrambling, woody shrub with a perennial root system and biennial canes. It grows up to 2 m or more tall and is extremely variable in leaf shape and plant form. Stems are variable, semi-erect canes, which grow up to 8 or 10 m long. The canes may be green, purplish, or red and have generally backward pointing thorns, and are moderately hairy, round or angled, sometimes bearing small, stalked glands. They are arching, entangling, and woody. Stems can root at the tips to form new plants and new stems grow from the base each year. Roots are stout, branched, creeping underground, growing vertically to a maximum depth of 1.5 m depending on soil type, from a woody crown up to 20 cm in diameter. Secondary roots grow horizontally from the crown for 30-60 cm, and then grow down vertically. Many thin roots grow in all directions from the secondary roots (Weber, 1995; Bruzzese 1998; Roy et al. 1998; Anon, 2001). The alternate leaves are divided into 3 or 5 serrated, shortly stalked, oval leaflets, which are arranged palmately, coloured dark green on top and pale beneath. Some taxa have the underside of leaves covered in pale hairs. Stalks and mid-ribs are prickly. Flowers are white to pink, 2-3 cm in diameter, with five petals and numerous stamens, in many-flowered clusters. In the northern hemisphere, R. fruticosus flowers approximately from May to August, in the southern hemisphere from November to April. The fruit is an aggregated berry, 10-20 mm long, changing colour from green to red to black as it ripens, made up of approximately twenty to fifty single-seeded drupelets. Seeds are deeply and irregularly pitted, oval, coloured light to dark brown, and 2.6-3.7 mm long and 1.6-2.5 mm wide.
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
R. fruticosus L. agg. is native to much of Europe. The genus Rubus is distributed in all continents except in Antarctica, with a northern limit of 65-75°N (approximating to the Arctic Circle) including areas with extreme aridity (Weber, 1995). In the tropics and sub-tropics, the genus is restricted to mountain areas, but is not known to occur in East Africa (Luke Q, National Museums of Kenya, personal communication, 2004). The distribution list indicates the native range and the exotic range where it is considered invasive. R. fruticosus is considered to be present in many other countries as a commercial species.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 12 May 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|South Africa||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive|
|Japan||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Original citation: Shimuzu et al., 2001|
|Russia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|Serbia and Montenegro||Present||Native|
|United States||Present, Localized|
|-New South Wales||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: late 1830s|
|-Queensland||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: late 1830s|
|-South Australia||Present, Widespread||Introduced||1842||Invasive|
|-Western Australia||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive|
|New Zealand||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Generally, introduction and spread of R. fruticosus L. agg. have been intentional as a fruit crop or a barrier hedge. In Australia, blackberry was evidently planted in New South Wales by the late 1830s. In 1842 blackberry was first recorded as being deliberately introduced from Europe into Adelaide, South Australia for its fruit. It was included in the sale catalogue of a Tasmanian nursery by 1845. Blackberry was recognised to have become a significant weed by the 1880s, and first proclaimed a noxious weed in Gippsland, Victoria in 1894.(Anon., 2001). The initial introduction to New Zealand was probably as a food plant by early settlers and other introductions can be traced back to distributions of plants from the Melbourne Botanic Gardens in the mid 1800s (Webb et al., 1988). In New Zealand, the initial spread of blackberry was intentional by planting for use as a food source and to form hedges, with unintentional distribution via humans, sheep and particularly by introduced birds, and by horticultural escape (Healy, 1952; Guthrie-Smith, 1953).
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
It is still a widely grown commercial fruit species and as such, further imports of plant material is likely. In New Zealand, it is on a list of 110 species of National Surveillance Plant Pests, prohibited from propagation, sale, distribution, and commercial display throughout the country (Pennycook, 1998). R. fruticosus is listed as a 'weed of national significance' in Australia (Anon, 2001) and presently occupies about 9 million hectares of land (Evans K, Tasmania Institute of Agricultural Research, Australia, personal communication, 2004). In the USA, it is included in the federal noxious weed list (USDA-APHIS, 2002). In South Africa, R. fructicosus is legally recognized as an invasive plant and is listed as a Category 2 Invader Plant under the Conservation Of Agricultural Resources Act, i.e. species with commercial or utility value, which may only be grown with a permit under controlled circumstances (Wildy E, Alien Invader Plants Project, South Africa, personal communication, 2004).
HabitatTop of page
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Wetlands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Physiology and Phenology
Seed requires stratification and germinates in spring. Seedlings are poor competitors, but this is compensated by the large amount of seed produced annually. Shading and competition affect seedling survival negatively and most seedlings die in early establishment; Amor (1971) found that only 15% of seedlings at one study site survived the first year. Those which succeed in establishing can grow up to four canes, with a length of up to 1 m, producing daughter plants in their first autumn.
Blackberries may also vary in their deciduous nature. The evergreen blackberry is the main type in cultivation in Washington and Oregon in the USA. Evergreen types often have canes which persist for more than 2 years, new laterals being produced each year.
R. fruticosus is able to propagate vegetatively from 'daughter' canes which can root where contacting the soil. It produces large quantities of fleshy fruits apomictically but also sexually by pollination via insects. Oldest crowns in thickets being found were 7.5 years old and belonged to R. procerus and R. ulmifolius hybrids. The longevity of crowns of other species in the aggregate is not known (Amor, 1971; Bruzzese, 1998).
R. fruticosus is generally a temperate species preferring a range of soil conditions and rainfall regimes. In Australia, it is restricted to temperate climates with an annual rainfall of at least 700 mm, and occurs at any altitude (Bruzzese, 1998), and R. fruticosus can grow up to elevations of 1600 m in the USA (Ertter, 1993). It requires moist soil but can tolerate some drought, or even in areas with extreme aridity (Weber, 1995). The plant can tolerate strong winds but not maritime exposure (Bean and Clarke, 1991; Huxley et al., 1992). When established, R. fruticosus can grow in full shade in deep woodland, semi-shade in light woodland, or no shade situations, but in full shade fruit production is reduced and fruits will ripen later.
For commercial production of blackberries, winter chilling is required and the crop will withstand -20°C when dormant. Later flowering than raspberries, flowers are not usually damaged by frost although young shoots are frost sensitive. Blackberries will not tolerate waterlogged soils, drought or excessive periods of low humidity (Jackson et al., 2011).
Numerous animal species, especially birds and small mammals, use R. fruticosus as a source of food and for habitat. It is also associated with arbuscular mycorrhiza (Helgason et al., 2002).
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||-18|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Mean annual rainfall||700||mm; lower/upper limits|
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- very acid
Special soil tolerances
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Pennycook (1998) lists twenty-one insects, five phytophagous or predatory mites and one nematode species recorded on Rubus in New Zealand. Most of these invertebrates feed on different plant species, and those specific to Rubus have a wide host range within this genus. In addition, nineteen fungal pathogens are listed, causing wilts, blights, root rots, cane spots and leaf spots. Most of them cause only insignificant symptoms on R. fruticosus and/or affect also a range of other hosts. Bruzzese (1980) states that though more than 40 phytophagous species occur on R. fruticosus, it appears that they have only little effect in suppressing populations of this species. Viruses found infecting R. fruticosus to various degrees, amongst a range of other host species are the aphid-vectored Raspberry leaf curl virus (Stace-Smith, 1991a) and Black raspberry necrosis virus (Stace-Smith, 1991b), and the nematode-vectored Strawberry latent ringspot virus (Cooper, 1986). According to EPPO (2003), R. fruticosus is a minor host of the following quarantine pests: Anthonomus signatus, Apple mosaic virus, Arabis mosaic virus, Black raspberry latent virus, Cherry leafroll virus, Melacosoma americanum, Naupactus leucoloma, Quadraspidiotus perniciosus, Strawberry latent ringspot virus, Thrips imaginis, Tomato black ring virus, Tomato ringspot virus; and an incidental host for: Tobacco ringspot virus, Anthonomus bisignifer, Cacoecimorpha pronubana, and Raspberry ringspot virus.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
|Clothing, footwear and possessions||Intentional/unintentional transport of seeds||Yes|
|Containers and packaging - wood||Unintentional transport of seeds||Yes|
|Land vehicles||Unintentional transport of seeds||Yes|
|Soil, sand and gravel||Unintentional transport of seeds||Yes|
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Fruits (inc. pods)||weeds/seeds|
|Growing medium accompanying plants||weeds/seeds|
|True seeds (inc. grain)||weeds/seeds|
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
ImpactTop of page
Environmental ImpactTop of page
R. fruticosus can degrade the natural environment by altering habitats as a result of crowding out and suppressing the growth of native vegetation. Blackberry thickets provide habitats for introduced birds and animals such as foxes and rabbits in Australia (Groves et al., 1998). Due to its biennial growth habit, the majority of biomass in a blackberry thicket is dead material from previous years, resulting in the exacerbation of fire hazards in larger infestations (Bruzzese, 1998). Around the root mass, soil erosion is accelerated along watercourses. This in turn results in an increase in sedimentation within the watercourses and the spread of blackberry seeds downstream. The extensive use of herbicides to control blackberry is environmentally undesirable.
Impact: BiodiversityTop of page
R. fruticosus can threaten populations of certain native plant species that are already rare or endangered (Briggs, 1998; Davies 1998). Williams and Timmins (1990) listed blackberry as a significant problem weed of protected natural areas, which can permanently alter the structure, successional processes, and composition of organisms present in native communities. However, dense blackberry thickets can provide nesting and sheltering sites for birds and mammals.
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Sidalcea nelsoniana||USA ESA listing as threatened species||Oregon; Washington||Competition - monopolizing resources||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2012)|
|Speyeria zerene hippolyta (Oregon silverspot butterfly)||USA ESA listing as threatened species||California; Oregon||Ecosystem change / habitat alteration||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2001)|
Social ImpactTop of page
Due to its vigorous growth and entangling canes, R. fruticosus can cause restriction of access to areas of public land for management purposes and restriction of access by visitors for recreational activities. Dead, dry canes are also undesirable from an aesthetic point of view as well as the nuisance value of the thorny stems. Blackberry invasions can result in loss of amenity, can cause interference with water flow, and prevent the establishment of species with desirable bank-stabilizing attributes. Property values can decrease substantially due to heavy infestations of blackberry. Large thickets can also obstruct visibility along roads.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Highly mobile locally
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts human health
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Negatively impacts tourism
- Reduced amenity values
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
- Produces spines, thorns or burrs
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
R. fruticosus presents a food source for honey bees, goats, deer (Bruzzese, 1998) and other wild animals as well as for humans. Fruits are highly palatable with high vitamin C content and can be eaten raw, or made into drinks, jams, syrups or various preserves (Bown, 1997). Blackberries are harvested and sold in fresh and processed markets. For the fresh market, they are sold pick-your-own, for local sales, as well as on the international wholesale fresh market. In the processing market, the fruit are typically frozen whole, puréed or juiced and from these basic ‘industrial’ products, hundreds of products are made for sale to consumers in every section of a grocery store. Bakery products, jams and jellies, dairy and cereal products are some of the more common consumer products that contain blackberries. The juice is often fermented to make wines or liqueurs (Janick and Paull, 2008).
Leaves are used in the preparation of herbal teas and the root bark and leaves are used medicinally, being strongly astringent, depurative, diuretic, and vulnerary. Fruits provide a blue dye and a fibre can be obtained from the stems to make string. Blackberry bushes can prevent soil erosion on infertile, disturbed sites (Dersal, 1938).
Uses ListTop of page
Human food and beverage
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.Cultural Control
Depending on the situation, the composition of the soil seed bank and the availability of seed sources, promotion of alternative, competitive species to prevent re-infestation with blackberry can be effective. This method is useful in pastures with reseeding of improved forage grasses, but not recommended where the protection of threatened native species is also a management aim (Groves et al., 1998). Other methods which could be successful are the strategic use of fire, the maintenance of soil fertility to prevent the establishment of blackberry, and by goat grazing (Vere and Holst, 1979).
Cutting of plants by hand can be effective on smaller infestations but the long flexuous stems and penetrating thorns make this a hazardous task for the operators. Infested sites can be cut with a tractor mower or rotary slasher, and above-ground parts removed mechanically. Roots can then be removed by hand digging or ploughing. R. fruticosus may regenerate from any stem or root fragment, which means that mechanical methods may not usually totally eradicate this species from a site.
A problem for finding a suitable biological control agent is that almost all the invertebrate pests and diseases present on blackberry may cause collateral damage to commercial crops. In the 1980s, the blackberry leaf rust fungus Phragmidium violaceum was identified in Europe as a possible biological control agent. While it was being assessed it was also discovered in Victoria, Australia in 1984, assumed to be from an illegal introduction. Though spreading quickly, it was not as damaging as strains selected during the European work, one of which was introduced into Australia in 1991 (Bruzzese and Lane, 1996; Amor et al., 1998). In New Zealand, P. violaceum was first observed in 1990 and is now widely established but has not been recorded from cultivated Rubus. On the other hand, its long-term impact there on invasive blackberry has been minor and localized (Pennycook, 1998). As the susceptibility of different Rubus taxa to individual strains of P. violaceum varies (Bruzzese and Hasan, 1986), a better knowledge of blackberry taxonomy and accurate taxonomic keys are necessary to find suitable strains for the different species within the aggregate. Research in Australia on the taxonomy and genotypes of the aggregate has lead to the identification of at least 40 different genotypes, some of which appear resistant to this rust fungus (Evans et al., 1998; Evans et al., 1999). The effects depend on climate conditions, for example if rainfall is high it can be very effective but it does not perform well in less humid climates (Mahr and Bruzzese, 1998). A research programme organized by the CRC for Weed Management Systems with funding from the CRC, Agriculture Western Australia and CSIRO Entomology began in 1999 to identify rust strains in Europe which are virulent on the genotypes of Rubus characterized as resistant in Australia. With an improved identification of R. fruticosus in Australia, a more detailed search for effective strains of P. violaceum is now possible. A strain has been selected for further study from surveys in Portugal and a trap garden of Australian clones of blackberry was established in France with cultures of trapped rusts being studied for their relative effectiveness against R. fruticosus (Scott et al., 2002).
Several herbicides have been found to be effective, applied by knapsack or mistblower for smaller infestations, handgun and hose units for larger infestations. These include triclopyr alone or in mixture with picloram (Milne and Dellow, 1998), metasulfuron, amitrole, glyphosate and hexazinone (Anon., 2004). Often inaccessibility, excessively large infestations and the risk of damage to native vegetation make control by herbicides difficult or impossible (Bruzzese and Lane, 1996; Amor et al., 1998).
According to Bruzzese and Lane (1996), a range of control techniques will work much better than any isolated weed control technique. Therefore, it is very important to consider every available control option when a control programme is planned.
ReferencesTop of page
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