Bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.)

Also known as: blackberry, bramberry, brambleberry, brummel
KingdomPlantae
PhylumAnthophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderRosales
FamilyRosaceae
GenusRubus (1)
SizeHeight: variable (2)

not threatened (3).

Brambles form a complex group known as Rubus fruticosus agg. (short for aggregate), containing around 320 individual ‘species’ known as microspecies (3). These varieties are very difficult to tell apart (1). All brambles are sprawling shrubs, with thick prickly stems that are able to take root at their tips (2). The leaves have toothed edges and bear prickles on their undersides (2). The flowers tend to be creamy white with splashes of pink, and the unmistakable blackberries are a deep purplish-black when ripe (4). Microspecies differ on the basis of certain morphological features, including the density and arrangement of the prickles, and general growth form (5).

Brambles are found throughout the British Isles to altitudes of up to 490 m (3). At least 28 micro-species are considered to be rare, with a further 30 being decidedly scarce (5).

Found in woods, scrub, hedgerows, heaths, waste ground, and on banks, thriving best on acidic soils (3).

Brambles are deciduous or semi-evergreen shrubs (3) that are in leaf from March to November (6). Unusually, the ripe fruits can be seen on the plants at the same time as the flowers (7). It flowers from May to September, with the seeds ripening from July to October (6).

Blackberry seeds were discovered in the stomach of a Neolithic human dug up on the Essex coast, indicating that the berries have been enjoyed by humans for thousands of years (8). Blackberrying is one of the most widespread foraging activities to continue today, and they have been picked commercially in many areas (4). As well as their many culinary uses, blackberries have been used to obtain a purple dye. A fibre can be obtained from the stem and the leaves can be dried and used as a substitute for tea (6). The leaves and roots have been used to treat diarrhoea, dysentery, and cystitis, and can be made into a gargle for sore throats mouth ulcers and other sores (6).

This species is not threatened.

Conservation action is not required for this species at present.

For more on British native plants and for details of how to get involved in plant conservation visit the website of Plantlife, the wild plant charity:
www.plantlife.org.uk

For more on the folklore of this species see Botanical.com:
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/blaber49.html

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (January2004): http://nbn.nhm.ac.uk/nhm
  2. Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G., and Moore, D.M. (1987) Flora of the British Isles. 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  3. Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A. and Dines, T.D. (2002) New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Mabey, R. (1996) Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London.
  5. Wiggington, M.J. (1999) British red Data Books 1: Vascular Plants. 3rd Edition. JNCC, Peterborough.
  6. Plants for a Future (January 2004): http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Rubus+fruticosus
  7. Botanical.com (January 2004): http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/blaber49.html
  8. Grigson, G. (1996) The Englishman’s Flora. Helicon Publishing Ltd, Oxford.