Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wineberry... friend or foe?

One of Buck Shorts devoted readers commented recently about wineberry, Rubus phoenicolasius. Quite a coincidence since I had nibbled on it a few just hours before. We’ll, maybe not so much of a coincidence because this wild bramble is bearing lots of fruit right now and many folks enjoy it.

Wine berry looks a lot like other brambles such as red and black raspberry except that it is covered with sticky red hairs and bristles rather than sharp prickles. The fruit are a bit smaller than other brambles but they are very tasty and distinctly “wine colored”. I know wine comes in many colors so let’s call wineberries a deep rosé. They are bearing now, after red and black raspberries but before the blackberries.

One of the nice things about wineberries is that they grow wild and if you know where to look you can just graze on them every year. No gardening necessary. A few popped up in my yard last year (deposited by seeds in bird droppings, no doubt) and I let them grow. Like most brambles, the canes are biennial. Year one, canes are vegetative; year two they bear fruit and then die. Besides the nice fruit, they are kind of pretty, too.

I did a quick
internet search on this plant and learned that it is not native and is considered invasive in many states. It was introduced as breeding stock and is native to China, Japan and Korea. Wineberry is on Massachusetts’s and Connecticut’s noxious weed list. Many sites describe its invasive nature and I believe that it is capable of displacing native vegetation. So, in some states at least, if you cultivate Rubus phoenicolasius you are breaking the law. The weed police will not bother you in Pennsylvania, so pick away. You can even say you are doing your part to prevent its spread if you beat the birds to the seedy fruit. In any event, you only have another week or so if you want to enjoy the wineberry crop. Take a walk in the woods and you may find some.

Want to learn how to grow your own brambles? Check out
Penn State's guide to growing fruit in the backyard. It has an entire chapter on brambles.

Hey Kathleen, thanks for the photo of Rubus phoenicolasius. Love the images on
your photoblog. And Buck Short says thanks for his new image posted on this site.

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