A blackberry plant is mainly known for its black-colored fruits, that are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. These fruits are either consumed fresh, or used in preparing jams and jellies. Blackberries are produced by bushy shrubs. These shrubs come in two varieties - erect or trailing. They belong to the genus Rubus, in the Rosaceae (rose family). The members of this family are called brambles, which have thorny stems. A basic understanding about the features of blackberry bushes may prove useful for you in identifying them.
- There are around 375 species of blackberry, which are found in almost all parts of the world. The commonly found species are Rubus fruticosus (common blackberry), Rubus ursinus, and Rubus argutus.
- Some of them have arching stems, whereas others have stems that trail on the ground. The stems of the erect blackberry bush grow as arching canes and so, these plants are also called caneberries. The erect variety of the blackberry plant grows to a maximum height of six to ten feet.
- Even though they love moist soil, blackberry bushes are found in almost all soil conditions; and they grow abundantly on roadsides, thickets, meadows, and trails. The green stems have numerous thorns on them, but you may find thornless blackberry varieties too. In some species, even the leaves may have prickly hair.
- Their leaves are alternate and palmately compound. Each leaf consists of three to five leaflets. The leaflets are roughly oval, with pointed tips. They have serrated margins, and a light green color on the underside.
- One of the characteristic features of blackberry plants is their strange growth pattern. During the first year of growth, these plants produce stems that do not develop flowers or fruits. These stems are called primocane that transform to floricane in the second year of growth; during which, the flowers and fruits are produced.
- Flowers develop during the late spring (or early summer), and are found as racemes (long cluster of flowers). They have five oval petals that are light pink to white in color. Each flower has a diameter of around three-fourth of an inch.
- Fruits develop only if pollination happens. In some varieties, pollination happens within the same species, but others require different species for this purpose. Blackberry fruits develop during late summer, and the immature ones are reddish in color. They turn purplish black, when they get ripe.
- These fruits are not real berries, but are 'aggregate fruits' that consists of several drupelets. Blackberries are small and round, with a distinct core at the center. This is not present in raspberry, which has a hollow center. This is one of the factors that distinguish blackberries from raspberries.