Rubus ursinus

4 May

Rubus ursinus, aka “trailing blackberry”, aka “devil’s shoelaces” is another one of those coastal natives from California up into Alaska. It really can only be confused with the larger invasive blackberries when those are seedlings, the scale of the adult plants is entirely different. The thin wiry stems are covered in thin little prickles that easily break off in your skin, and almost invariably cause a minor infection. Any prickles lodged in the skin will quickly fester. Since this likes to trail, and either drape itself over the surrounding shrubbery, or simply snake along the ground (where it tends to trip the unwary, sawing said prickles over your ankles, hence the Devil’s shoelaces moniker), may gardeners don’t like these.

But consider for a second- this is a basically evergreen vine, easily trainable (with gloves on), that will grow, flower and fruit in shade. And it’s drought tolerant! Ok, so it tends to seed itself aggressively, both tip roots and runs at the roots, but if your looking for a shade loving vine, you could do worse than these. Especially since you get to harvest the nicest little wild blackberries you have ever tasted.

A couple of things to know about these vines- if you want berries, you need more than one. The flowers on these are generally either male or female. Male flowers are larger and showier, female flowers tend to be open a much briefer period and are smaller, but they are both lovely in full bloom.

These are trainable flat to a fence, but they really prefer a horizontal trellis, like another shrub. If I ever get ambitious, I have plans to try a shelf kind of system with these to see if they would take better to that, but with training they can be trained to a fence. Even the north side of the fence, in shade no less.

Bees adore the flowers, as you might expect, but so do butterflies and even hummingbirds on occasion, so expect lots of wildlife action. Bloom time is typically earlier than most blackberries, in April and early May, with fruiting also generally early. Since the berries are small, takes collecting more to get enough for jams or a pie, but it’s worth it. A trick is to harvest daily, and put them strait into the freezer till you have enough for what you want to do. Although I love a good pie or cobbler, mine usually go straight into the mouth, or I save enough for jam.

This native vine may not be for everyone, but it really should be at least considered more often. It does take some controlling, but will reward the careful gardener with spectacular flowers, fruit and it looks good doing it!



One Response to “Rubus ursinus”


  1. Blackberry | Find Me A Cure - May 21, 2013

    […] Rubus ursinus […]

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