Trailing Wild Blackberry - Rubus ursinus

Why Get to know this plant:

Trailing blackberries are delicious!

Trailing blackberries are delicious!

Get these little blackberries at just the right ripeness, and they taste like candy! So sweet and little they are a treat for young and old. This plant is also known as pacific blackberry since it is our native blackberry (not like the huge Himalayan variety we seeing growing in dense clusters everywhere it can). Like other members of the Rubus genus (raspberry, boysenberry, loganberry) the trailing blackberry makes fruit that are useful to make jams and preserves due to the high pectin content. Leaves can be used as a tea that are mildly astringent and improve muscle tone (particularly for the uterus). I learned years ago that the best tea is made from the leaves after they turn purple at the end of the growing season which is contrary to when leaves are typically harvested for use in tea.

 

 

Here you see the trailing blackberry growing amongst a whole bunch of different plants, it grows overtop of plant structures.

Here you see the trailing blackberry growing amongst a whole bunch of different plants, it grows overtop of plant structures.

Where This Plant grows:

This plant trails along the ground or over top of other plants. It does not form upright stems and rather they follow along whatever surface they can. They prefer moist areas although I have seen them in drier conditions in amongst other blackberries or brambles. They grow well in disturbed areas such as recent logging and exposed clearings. They grow from Southern California up to BC where trailing blackberry is limited mostly to the coast. It grows on Vancouver Island and more predominantly in the southern half.

 

 

 

How to Identify:

Flowers are white and have 5 petals, male and female flowers are on separate plants.

Flowers are white and have 5 petals, male and female flowers are on separate plants.

Trailing shrub less than 50 cm tall but can be over 5 m long. Leaflets occur in three and are compound with two lateral leaflets and one larger terminal leaflet, similar to a raspberry leaf. Edges of the leaves are toothed. The trailing stems are smooth and covered in a waxy coating which gives it a blue-grey appearance and are prickly, however the prickles are short and not typically as piercing as the larger blackberry bramble-thorns are. Berries are very small at about 1 cm long and DELICIOUS.

The vine is covered in a waxy coating that gives it a blue-grey colour, and the spines are much smaller than those of himalayan blackberry.

The vine is covered in a waxy coating that gives it a blue-grey colour, and the spines are much smaller than those of himalayan blackberry.

Female and male plants are separate, so don’t be surprised if you find a nice patch of trailing blackberry that has lots of fruit (female) and nearby another patch that is completely bare (male).

 

Parts Used:

Ripe blackberries are harvested in the early summer and can be eaten fresh or made into jams or jellies.

Leaves can be used in a tea; and as I learned as best at the end of the growing season when the leaves turn purple/red.

 

Caution: 

If making a tea from the leaves for uterine tonic and strength, consult first with an ND if you are pregnant or nursing.

 

Find a handful of these little berries and have a treat! Or collect a bucketful and make some jam!

Find a handful of these little berries and have a treat! Or collect a bucketful and make some jam!

Constituents in the plant:

Nutritional Value of the berries:

The fruit has strong antioxidant effects and if dried into a tea can be used during the febrile stages of most viral infections.  The contain vitamin A and vitamin C and trace minerals.

 

Herbal Value of the leaves:

Astringent properties containing tannins as well as some antioxidant properties. Constituents are likely similar to those of wild raspberry leaves which contain flavonoids (mostly glycosides of kaempferol and quercetin) as well as astringent tannins. Blackberry leaves are found to contain, tannins, gallic acid, saponins (including villosin). All of which are valuable to use for astringent remedies such as bouts of diarrhea that need to be dried up, or external washes to a cut, burn or skin eruption. Famous herbalist Ellingwood considered blackberry leaves specific for diarrhea in infancy. (interesting!)

Trailing blackberry has the name since it grows across the ground (or other plants). Here is the plant after the fruit season is finished and some of the leaves are starting to turn red.

Trailing blackberry has the name since it grows across the ground (or other plants). Here is the plant after the fruit season is finished and some of the leaves are starting to turn red.

 

References:

Hoffman, David (2003) Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press. p. 278

MacKinnon et al. (2009) Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada. Lone Pine Publishing. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. p. 93

Pojar & Mackinnon (1994) Plants of Coastal British Columbia: including Washington, Oregon & Alaska. Ministry of Forests and Lone Pine Publishing. p. 78

Turner, Nancy (1995) Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples. Royal BC Museum Handbook. Frisens. Canada. p. 127-128