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Brambles (Rubus fruticosus) ~ by Chris

Brambles (Rubus fruticosus)

The bramble is a common native species. It is found in many different types of plant communities from woodlands, to heaths and dunes though it is not found in native pine woodland, and is generally more common in lowland than upland woods.

The bramble forms an underground, perennial rootstock that throws up new shoots in the Spring. These are have a two-year ‘life span’, i.e. they are biennial. In the first year, growth is vigorous and vegetative. If the tip of the shoot comes in contact with the soil then it may develop roots and form a daughter plant (this is a form of vegetative reproduction and plants formed in this way will have the same genetic make up as the parent plant). The leaves on these first year shoots are compound and palmate, with 5 – 7 leaflets. In the second year, lateral shoots develop which bear the flowers. The leaves on these lateral shoots are somewhat smaller, and have 3 – 5 leaflets.bramble13

The flowers form in late spring / early summer and are white or pale pink. The fruit, the blackberry, develops from these flowers. However, some brambles produce fruit and seed without fertilisation – though the transfer of pollen to the stigmas of the flowers may be required as a stimulus for fruit and seed formation. This form of reproduction (which is neither truly asexual or sexual) is known as apomixis. Brambles and dandelions both make use of this method. Some brambles are also polyploid, that is, their chromosome number has doubled or trebled. As a result of apomixis, polyploidy and crossing, many microspecies of bramble have formedbee-on-bramble. These are quite difficult to identify, relying on minute differences in the flowering and non-flowering shoots, the leaves, the prickles and young fruits. Because of these many micro-species, the bramble is considered to be an aggregate species –and is written as Rubus fruticosus agg.

The fruit of the bramble is the blackberry, but in a strict botanical sense, the blackberry is not a berry. Each tiny juicy ‘blob’ on the blackberry represents a tiny fruit or drupelet, and there are many of them so it is an aggregate fruit (a drupe is a fruit that has a fleshy, outer part that surrounds a stone or seed; a drupelet is a tiny drupe). Blackberries have formed part of the human diet in Western Europe for thousands of years. Examination of ‘Haraldskaer woman’ indicated that blackberries formed part of her diet.

butterfly-on-brambleThe bramble is a source of food for many species of insect and mite, with some species feeding exclusively on bramble. The bramble is also important to dormice, which eat their flowers and fruit ; they and other animals / birds seek refuge in bramble thickets. The leaves also represent a food source for deer, whose browsing may affect the development of bramble thicket. High numbers of deer can result in a reduction in the amount of bramble and consequently, the amount of wildlife in a given area.

Large amounts of bramble can affect the microclimate of the ground / herb layer; influencing the growth and development of other plants. On one hand, it can offer protection from grazing / browsing to young tree seedlings but equally it can suppress the development of light loving species.

Posted in: Flora & Fauna ~ On: 14 December, 2008

15 comments so far

colin brown
10 January, 2009

can you advise me.

i underst and that the bramble used to be used in weaving. unfortunately i cannot find any information on this subject.

can you help

thanks

Chris
15 January, 2009

Had not come across that use until you mentioned it; a quick search revealed
http://www.bushcraft.ridgeonnet.com/basicbasket.htm
complete with details on how to get rid of the prickles etc !
Regards

Derek
4 October, 2009

for extra blackberries I decided to grow a thornless variety, and bought a plant from http://www.gardeningexpress.co.uk, it’s done really well this year, but so have all the local hedgerows, so got them coming out of our ears! nevermind, plenty for the freezer. Perhaps if you have trouble finding them locally growing wild, you should try a plant in the garden?

adl
8 January, 2010

i have brambles — blackberries i have beautiful leaves but just had a harvest of only 2 blackberry fruits. should I fertilize or not what type of soil is required.
someone told me bad soil.pls advise

Pat McGuire
1 July, 2010

Hi’please can you help me identify a plant i found recently whilst out walking in the Greenock area of Scotland, it was a Rubus but the fruit was a destinctive orange colour it is aggregate and the leave has five parts, it was a blackberry but orange.

Chris
1 July, 2010

A photograph might help
Was it just partially ripened ?
What about cloudberry? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubus_chamaemorus
This has an orange fruit.

Managing hedgerows. | The Woodlands.co.uk Blog
3 January, 2012

[...]   Hedgerows provide vital food, in the form of a variety of berries – sloes, haws, blackberries etc,  for small mammals and birds (redwings, blackbirds) and hedgerow flowers support pollinating [...]

Cara
12 June, 2012

Found what looks like blackberrys but are orange. In largs, Scotland. Any idea?

Blogs
12 June, 2012

difficult to know but look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubus_chamaemorus and see if that might be the answer ???

Tree of the month: bramble | Science on the Land
15 October, 2012

[...] in Britain the bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.) is widespread and common. It’s one of the glories of our [...]

Birds of marsh and farm | Toddler in the wild
10 February, 2013

[...] by. Dozens of Greenfinch gather on the telegraph wires, whilst Dunnocks and Wrens flit through the Bramble. A Buzzard sits on a post and surveys it all from on high. I reach the designated viewpoint and [...]

Howard
10 August, 2013

I have found a few brambles in the garden but they do not appear to bear fruit (last year or this). I have seen one or two tiny flowers. Other than to say that if the plant is well established, is there a concise guide to which varieties fruit and how to encourage fruiting. A table of varieties and their attributes would be ideal, if you know of one.

Thanks

blog
10 August, 2013

Fall Foraging | rob houghton
14 October, 2013

[…] Now foraging is one of those things that can be done cheaply (for free in fact) and easily by literally anyone and can really re-connect people with nature.  I love to see the amazement when I give a group of kids something to nibble on that I’ve just picked out of a hedge and there’s a dawning realisation that they can eat parts of the countryside.  Even if all you have access to is a bit of wasteland, in the UK at least, you’ll almost certainly be able to pick blackberries from a tangle of bramble. […]

Native dominants or botanical ‘thugs’ in woodland. | Woodlands.co.uk
28 March, 2014

[…] that have fallen under suspicion are bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), bramble (Rubus fruticosus), ivy (Hedera helix), and nettle (Urtica dioica) – to which might be added […]

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