A Slightly Obsessive Guide to Identifying Blackberries Around the World

A Slightly Obsessive Guide to the Blackberries of the World

by | Aug 7, 2018

During a recent hike in Olympic National Park, I saw some strange berries – like blackberries, but pink. Confused, I pointed them out to my boyfriend and he explained they were salmonberries (scroll to “North American Blackberry Species” to see a photo). I definitely immediately thought of the fishberries from Neopets (don’t judge), but then started to wonder: how many blackberry lookalikes are there?

Turns out, there are a lot. I went way down the blackberry rabbit hole in my desire to learn more about the plants around me. I love foraging for wild foods, and I especially love eating sweet wild berries.

Rubus is a large, diverse genus of plants found worldwide. If you forgot from high school biology, a genus is a group of species. Dogs, coyotes, foxes, and wolves are all species within the genus “Canis.”

The genus Rubus is really, really convoluted. Scientists don’t even know how many species the genus includes – some estimate 250, others estimate 700. That’s a pretty big margin for error!

It turns out that it’s pretty difficult to tell where one species ends and another begins, and there’s a whole tangled mess of subspecies, single species with multiple names, and other taxonomic disasters.

Thanks to my deep dive into the Rubus genus, I discovered that almost all plants in this family are edible. That’s good news, since it’s so difficult to tell them apart! I couldn’t find any listings of toxic berries is the family, although apparently eating the leaves of these plants is a bad idea.

 

Fun Facts about the Blackberry Genus:

 

  • The blackberry (Rubus) genus includes berries like dewberries, thimbleberries, and raspberries.
  • The “berries” of Rubus plants are not berries in a botanical sense. They’re actually called drupelets and are part of an aggregate fruit.
  • The flavor “blue raspberry” is actually modeled after the flavor of the white bark raspberry.

 

I decided to put together a guide to the blackberries of the world. This list obviously isn’t exhaustive, but it includes many of the best-known (to science) and most useful plants in the Rubus genus.

Many Rubus species look devastatingly similar, so we’ll mostly focus on where each species is found.

 

A Guide to the Blackberries of the World

 

This list is organized by continent of origin. I only listed each species once, but included species that are found on multiple continents at the end of each continent. For example, the European Dewberry is listed under “Europe” but is also included at the end of the “Asian” section because it’s also found there.

 

blackberry raspberry

 

European Blackberry Species

 

European Dewberry, Rubus caesius

Drupelet Color: Black, smaller than blackberries

Range: Much of Europe and Asia, particularly in rocky, basic soil with light shade.

Flavor: Succulent but not overly sweet

 

Stone Bramble, Rubus saxatilis

Drupelet Color: Red

Range: Europe and Asia, from Iceland to China to Spain

Flavor: Acidic but tasty

 

Evergreen Blackberry, Rubus laciniatus

Also known as: Cutleaf evergreen blackberry

Drupelet Color: black

Range: Northern and central Europe

Flavor: sweet

 

Cloudberry, Rubus chamaemorus

Also known as: Nordicberry, bakeapple, knotberry, knoutberry, aqpik, low-bush salmonberry, averin, evron

Drupelet Color: Sunset pink-orange, golden (red drupelets are unripe)

Range: Nordic countries, Baltic states, Poland, Russia, Greenland, northern Canada, Alaska, northern Minnesota, New Hampshire, Maine, New York. Endangered in Japan, Germany, England, Scottland, and Ireland.

Flavor: Tart, often cooked. Highly valued for Vitamin C in the north.

 

European Raspberry, Rubus idaeus

Also known as: red raspberry. Shares this common name with Rubus strigosus, might be 1 species.

Drupelet Color: Red

Range: Europe, northern Asia

Flavor: sweet

 

Other blackberries that also grow in Europe include:

  • Japanese Wineberry (see Asia)

 

blackberry raspberry

 

Asian Blackberry Species

 

Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus

Also known as: Armenian blackberry

Drupelet Color: Black

Range: Armenia and northern Iran, naturalized and invasive elsewhere

Flavor: Similar to common blackberry, but larger and sweeter

 

Korean Blackberry, Rubus coreanus

Also known as: Korean bramble, bokbunja.

Drupelet Color: Dark purple

Range: Japan, China, Korea

Flavor: Tart, used in a fruit wine

 

Japanese Wineberry, Rubus phoenicolasius

Also known as: wine raspberry, wineberry, dewberry

Drupelet Color: Dark red

Range: Japan, China, Korea. Also an “escaped domestic plant” in much of Europe and North America

Flavor: Sweet and tart

 

Other blackberries that also grow in Asia include:

  • European Dewberry (see Europe)
  • European Raspberry (see Europe)

 

salmonberry blackberry

 

North American Blackberry Species

 

Dwarf Red Blackberry, Rubus pubescens

Also known as: Dwarf red raspberry, dewberry

Drupelet Color: Red

Range: Canada, northwest US

Flavor: sweet, juicy

 

Red Raspberry, Rubus strigosus

Also known as: shares the common name with Rubus idaeus, might be 1 species.

Drupelet Color: Red

Range: Across North America

Flavor: sweet

 

White Bark Raspberry, Rubus leucodermis

Drupelet Color: Dark purple

Range: Western North America, from Alaska to northern Mexico

Flavor: Similar to blue raspberry flavoring – because this flavor is modeled after this plant!

 

Black Raspberry, Rubus occidentalis

Also known as: wild black raspberry, black caps, black cap raspberry, thimbleberry,[2][3] and scotch cap.[4]

Drupelet Color: Dark purple

Range: Eastern North America

Flavor: Sweet but tart

 

American Dewberry, Rubus flagellaris

Drupelet Color: Black

Range: Northern Mexico, eastern and central US, and eastern Canada

Flavor: Tart

 

Garden Dewberry,  Rubus aboriginum

Also known as: Aboriginal Dewberry

Drupelet Color: Black

Range: US and Mexico, especially southern Great Plains area

Flavor: tart

 

Aberdeen Dewberry, Rubus depavitus

Drupelet Color: black

Range: Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, and West Virginia

Flavor: tart

 

Thimbleberry, Rubus parvivlorus

Drupelet Color: Dusty red

Range: Western North America

Flavor: Sweet

 

Salmonberry, Rubus spectabilis

Also known as: Joffelberry

Drupelet Color: Bright red or rich orangish gold

Range: Pacific Northwest of North America, especially in wet areas

Flavor: Weak taste, more often cooked with or prepared in jams than eaten raw. Frequently eaten with salmon.

 

Swamp Dewberry, Rubus hispidus

Also known as: bristly dewberry, bristly groundberry, groundberry, hispid swamp blackberry or running swamp blackberry

Drupelet Color: Dark purple, almost black

Range: Central and eastern North America

Flavor: bitter, not usually eaten. Used as a dye.

 

Upland Dewberry, Rubus invisus

Drupelet Color: purlplish black

Range: Eastern and east-central US

Flavor: sweet

 

Common Blackberry, Rubus allegheniensis

Also known as: Allegheny blackberry

Drupelet Color: black

Range: Much of coastal North America

Flavor: sweet

 

Arctic Blackberry, Rubus arcticus

Also known as: Arctic raspberry, Arctic bramble, nagoon, nagoonberry

Drupelet Color: dark red

Range: Alaska, northern Scandinavia, Russia, Poland, Belarus, Mongolia, northeastern China, North Korea, Estonia, Lithuania, Canada, and the northern United States as far south as Oregon, Colorado, Michigan, and Maine.

Flavor: Sweet, considered a delicacy

 

California BlackberryRubus ursinus

Also known as: California dewberry, Douglas berry, Pacific blackberry, Pacific dewberry and trailing blackberry.

Drupelet Color: dark purple, dark red, or black

Range: Western North America, including British Columbia, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, and Baja California.

Flavor: Very sweet, very fragarent

 

Smooth Blackberry, Rubus canadensis

Also known as: Canadian blackberry, thornless blackberry and smooth highbush blackberry

Drupelet Color: black

Range: Central and eastern Canada (from Newfoundland to Ontario) and the eastern United States

Flavor: Smooth, sweet

Other blackberries that grow in North America include:

  • Cloudberry (see Europe)
  • Japanese Wineberry (see Asia)

 

blackberry dog

 

South American Blackberry Species

 

Rubus geoides

Drupulet Color: bright red

Range: Extreme south of South America

Berry Flavor: tart

 

We hope you enjoyed this guide to blackberries of the world! Comment below if we missed one of your favorite species and we’ll add it in. We know there are hundreds more species out there!

11 Comments

  1. Jeanette M Baker

    Thimbleberry, Rubus parvivlorus

    Drupelet Color: Dusty red

    Range: Western North America

    Flavor: Sweet

    You have this one a little off I think. The Rubus parviflorus Thimbleberry grows in Northern Temperate Western North America to the Great lakes.
    It ripens to bright dark red and is also has more of a sweet-sour taste

    Reply
  2. Carol M.

    hello,
    A plant that I pulled up out of one of my gardens….This plant looked like a dew berry and produced nice a bit of tasty berries…I have been home due to the quarantine..And .. as the little canes finished bearing fruit I decided to dig them up for next year. Which led to a New discovery, as I dig up cane after cane there was a new shoot connected that looked like a maturing blackberry shoot! Or am I witnessing a conglomerate plant? I have been looking for a place to identify this interesting plant.Looking for further knowledge if anyone has experienced this before!!

    Reply
  3. Chris Jones

    Love your analysis, Kayla. Not obsessive at all !! I’m finding numerous stands blackberry stands near me in upland regions of the Pisgah Forrest, in western NC. Per your analysis there are easily 7 primary varieties that might fit geographically. Looking at leaves alone, the Sawtooth might be a good match. Continuing to study. Too late in season for fruit or flowers. May have to resume my quest in the spring. Any thoughts or guidance appreciated.

    Reply
  4. iKon

    Rubus glaucus. An ancient hybrid of black raspberry and a blackberry. I’d be interested in seeds 😉

    Reply
  5. Meg

    It hurts my heart a little to see all these plants being called blackberries. :^) There’s no common name for the rubus genus, though there is a subgenus inside rubus which is confusingly also called rubus, that could be described as the blackberry subgenus because it’s the one that contains all the blackberries. Calling a raspberry a blackberry because they share a genus would be like calling a peach an almond, or calling a donkey a zebra.

    Every known berry in the rubus genus is edible. I’m also not aware of any leaves in the genus that are poisonous, and most of the common ones I know of are not only edible but are used both traditionally and in the modern day as teas and health supplements. I wouldn’t eat the leaf of a rubus species without verifying the ID and checking to see if the leaves are known to be edible but I’ve yet to do this and have the answer turn up as a no.

    Reply
  6. Yancey

    Rubus cockburnianus? Blackberries with white canes. Google image search it. Geez these scientists and their Latin names :/

    Reply
  7. Ian G.

    Hi Kayla,

    I seen Blackberry seeds for sale on e-bay labelled as “Grifri” but can’t find anything in your document or google. I suspect the seeds are from Asia/China. Have you heard of “Grifri” before?. Does it mean anything? Thanks in advance. Regards Ian G. (UK)

    Reply
    • Kayla Fratt

      Great question, Ian! I haven’t heard of a Grifri variery of blackberry. It could be more of a breed/variety versus a separate species – which only makes things more complicated. Without seeing an adult plant, it’s really hard to say. Sorry I can’t be of more help!

      Reply
    • Meg

      Don’t bother buying seeds from eBay or Amazon, especially ones from Asia/China. Most of them are scams and you’ll get weed seeds, random little pellets that aren’t seeds at all, or seeds from some random plant.

      I did some Googling and found some Amazon listings for “Grifri thornless blackberry”. “Grifri” seems to be the name of a company rather than a variety. I think the variety pictured is a Columbia Giant thornless blackberry or a similar variety. Rather than buying it from those online listings I would look for a reputable online nursery or call nurseries in your area that specialize in fruit.

      Reply
  8. Kayla Fratt

    Sounds like you’ve got one that we missed, Anne! Could be a hybrid, or just a species that isn’t as well known. Have you tried using the PlantSnapp app to ID it? Either way, if you’d like to link some photos to us, we’ll try to help you ID it!

    Reply
  9. Kayla Fratt

    Anne, that sounds like a job for PlantSnap! You can download the app and see if it helps. If it doesn’t, post a link to the photo below. We’ll help you get it figured out. If it’s not in our database yet, our team will work to ID it and get it back to you!

    Reply

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