Anyone who has ever walked through a national park or driven through agricultural land has most likely seen the scrambling, thorny tendrils of a European blackberry bush. A Weed of National Significance, this plant was once hailed as a solution to the erosion of riverbanks, and was planted in suburban backyards for its delicious fruit. Today, however, the public do not view Rubus fruticosus in such a favourable light.
Farmers and conservation volunteers alike now try frantically to eradicate this prickly weed. But did you know that the European blackberry’s cousin, Rubus parvifolius, is indigenous to many areas of Victoria, even Melbourne?
That’s right, we have our very own native raspberry! Native raspberry is a slender, rambling shrub with hooked thorns and sweet edible berries. Its leaves are bright green on top with a silvery underside, and its small, pink flowers appear over the spring and summer months. From summer to autumn, this species produces small berries that turn bright red when ripe. Native raspberry is found in a range of habitats including grasslands, scrublands, woodlands and riparian areas.
If you are weeding and come across a prickly, scrambling shrub, and you are unsure whether it’s native raspberry or European blackberry, there are a few key characteristics to look out for. Look at its leaves: native raspberry has bright green leaves with a silvery underside, while the leaves of the European blackberry are a darker, duller green. If the shrub has flowers, think about their size and colour: native raspberry has small pink flowers which measure 1 to 1.5cm wide, while European blackberry has larger white-pink flowers which measure 2 to 3cm wide. If it is bearing fruit, observe the ripest looking berries. Native raspberries bear small berries that are bright red and measure 1cm in diameter when ripe. If the berries are larger and purple to black in colour: you guessed it, you’ve got European blackberries!
If indeed you do find European blackberry on your property, use a woody weed herbicide such as glyphosate to kill it. Unless the plant is very small, don’t try to pull it out, as it will just re-shoot from any roots that remain in the soil. Please don’t leave it alone: as a Weed of National Significance, this species causes a myriad of problems for farmers and ecosystems alike. Especially large infestations can even pose a fire risk. If, on the other hand, you find native raspberry on your property, treasure that little shrub, and enjoy its delicious fruit!