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There are at least 122 species of blackberries in the United States alone -- one authority claims 200 for North America. All are of the genus rubus, which also includes Boysenberries, dewberries, Loganberries, raspberries, tayberries, thimbleberries, wineberries, and Youngberries, and are related to the rose (genus rosa). They are found in every state of the United states, every province of Canada, and in most of Mexico.
The blackberry is a caning shrub, often growing into thickets or brambles, usually armed with thorns, spines or stiff hairs, with 3-7 leaved leaflets but most often 5. It will grow almost anywhere, but particularly does well at wooded borders, along fences, in fallow clearings, and along roadsides, rivers and railroads. The berries form from white, showy, 5-petal flowers that grow in clusters in the early to late spring. The berries are actually rounded or thimble-shaped clusters sharing a common attachment to the stem. These in turn also grow in clusters that turn from light green to rose, then red, then deep purple to black, ripening in mid- to late summer. When ripe, the berries are very popular among birds and other wildlife.
I believe that blackberry wine is best when made vintage -- from fresh blackberries, without blending with other fruit or wines -- but a few blackberry blends are worth making and drinking and I have included them among the ten blackberry wine recipes on the next page.
Some of the more popular blackberry varieties and hybrids are:
- 1826 -- very large, firm fruit ripening in mid-July;
- Andean Blackberry (Mora de Castilla) -- rich, tart flavor;
- Bear's Blackberry -- large, encroaching plants with large, delicious fruit;
- Black Satin (Black Satin Thornless; Rubus lanciniatus) Blackberry -- large (1 1/2 - 2 in.), sweet, glossy black fruit whose glossiness fades during ripening; winter-hardy to -15 degrees F.;
- Boysenberry (Nectarberry) -- hybridized in 1923 from the loganberry, various blackberries and raspberries; extremely larger (2 - 2 1/2 in.), practically seedless, non-shiny, dark maroon fruit with rich, tangy flavor and delightful aroma; hardy to -14 degrees F.; developed by Rudolph Boysen;
- Boysenberry, Thornless -- less vigorous with lower yields than thorny parent, but sweet, juicy, full-bodied flavor makes it more desirable for wine; easily transplanted, grows to 5 fee tall, self-pollinating, produces fruit first year after planting; ripens May to June;
- Brazos Blackberry (Rubus lanciniatus) -- big clusters of firm, sweet, juicy fruit that ripens in mid-May; disease resistant, commercial favorite; developed by Texas A&M;
- Cascade Blackberry (Cascade Trailing, Rubus ursinus) -- medium-sized but prolific fruit selected from the wild; blooms and ripens early; Pacific coast native from northern California to Alaska;
- Cherokee Blackberry -- cross between Brazos and Darrow; medium-sized fruit, but vigorous, productive and adapted to mechanical harvesting; ripens in June; developed by U. of Arkansas;
- Chester Blackberry (Chester Thornless) -- large, flavorful, very sweet, high quality fruit; hardy, productive, disease resistant, well suited to Midwest through Deep South; ripens in July;
- Cheyenne Blackberry -- large, very sweet, firm fuit ripening midseason; upright, moderately thorny canes adaptable to mechanical harvesting; developed by U. of Arkansas;
- Choctaw Blackberry -- Cross between Arkansas 526 and Roseborough by U. of Arkansas; medium sized fruit, mild flavor, smaller seeds than usual, good yields; ripens very early;
- Comanche Blackberry -- large, high quality, soft fruit; developed by U. of Arkansas;
- Darrow Blackberry -- Firm, high quality, long, conic, glossy black berries; low acid, wild blackberry taste, rich, fruity aroma; early ripening, strong upright 4-5-foot high canes that produce young and yield exceptionally large crops; self-fertile, exceptionally winter-hardy; great choice for Northeast through Midwest;
- Dirksen (Dirksen Thornless) Blackberry -- big, thick clusters of large, sweet, glossy black berries; exceptionally vigorous, highly productive, thornless plants with erect, self-pollinating canes; not particularly winter-hardy;
- Ebony King Blackberry -- large, long, purplish-black berries with delicious, sweet blackberry flavor; bears early before hot weather sets in; hardy to -20 degrees F.;
- Eldorado Blackberry -- large, black, glossy fruit with sweet, tangy flavor;
- Evergreen (Evergreen Thornless, Oregon Evergreen Thornless) Blackberry -- large, firm berries with large seeds, high sugar content, somewhat bland flavor; ripens in August, thornless canes, not recommended for Deep South;
- Flordagrand (Florida Grand) Blackberry -- large, tasty berries; well adapted to dry soils and Deep South; developed by U. of Florida;
- Himalaya Blackberry (Rubus discolor) -- rampant grower native to the Himalayas;
- Hull (Hull Thornless, Rubus lanciniatus) Blackberry -- similar to Black Satin; large to very large, firm, flavorful, sweet fruit; highly vigorous, semierect, thornless canes whose fruit hold up well on hot days; yields about twice as much as most thorned varieries; ripes in July; not suited for Deep South or Far North;
- Illini Hardy Blackberry -- Shiny fruit with a delicious, slightly acidic, wild blackberry flavor; more vigorous than Darrow, ripens in early August, does well in northern areas; developed by U. of Illinois;
- Jumbo, Stark (Shawnee Cultivar) Blackberry -- very large, tasty fruit up to 1 1/2 inches long; longer production season than most; not recommended for Deep South or Far North;
- Kotata Blackberry -- large, firm, tasty fruit that protrude from canes and are easily picked; West Coast variety ripening in July;
- Lawton Blackberry -- medium to large, firm, very sweet fruit with true blackberry flavor; strong, erect, dependable, winter-hardy canes;
- Lochness Blackberry -- thornless, fairly new variety;
- Loganberry (Logan, Thornless Logan, Thornless Loganberry) -- thought to be a cross between a wild blackberry and red raspberry; large, light red berries that do not darken when ripe; unique, tart flavor preferred by many over all other berries and very good for wine; thornless canes, average yields;
- Marionberry -- medium to large, medium firm, bright, shiny, redish-black berries; higher yields over a longer picking season than Boysenberries; developed for western Washington and Oregon;
- Navaho (Navajo) Blackberry -- very small berries with possibly the best flavor of any blackberry; thornless canes do well in Deep South; developed by U. of Arkansas;
- Ollallie (Olallieberry, Rubus argutus) Blackberry -- large, shiny, firm black berries that ripen in July; sweeter and less tart than others, with some wild blackberry flavor; vigorous, productive, thorny trailing canes; developed in Oregon but does extremely well in California;
- Perron (Perron Thornless) Blackberry -- vigorous, extremely productive, thornless variety developed in Canada for cold-hardiness;
- Roseborough Blackberry -- extra large, sweet, shiny, black berries similar to Brazos but with improved flavor and firmness; tolerates extreme heat and dryness and is well suited to the South; heavy crops on upright canes that are easily harvested; developed by Texas A&M;
- Santiam Blackberry -- wild type fruit that ripens in July;
- Shawnee Blackberry -- large, high quality, sweet, juicy, flavorful, shiny, black fruit; fast-growing, erect canes with consistently high yields and long fruiting season; probably the largest fruit and most productive of all thorny varieties; developed by U. of Arkansas;
- Smooth Stem Blackberry -- large, firm, luscious, jet-black berries; heavy producer, 35-40 berries on each stem; thornless, erect, extremely vigorous and disease-free canes; hardy in Midwest and South; early August; developed by USDA;
- Snyder Blackberry -- plump, sweet, juicy berries; high yields, reliable, self-polinating, winter hardy;
- Sylvan Blackberry -- cross between Boysenberry and Marionberry; large, very sweet, shiny, black fruit; vigorous, highly productive, thorny, trailing vines;
- Tayberry -- cross between Loganberry and black raspberry; juicy, cone-shaped, deep purple, slightly tart fruit; huge yields up to 12 tons per acre; vigorous even in difficult weather and bad soil; ripens late; named for Tay River, Scotland, where developed;
- Thornfree Blackberry -- medium-to-large, blunt, firm, glossy, black fruit; good, tangy-tart flavor; strong, vigorous, semi-upright, disease free canes; ripens late July to early August; hardy in Plains to Deep South; developed by USDA;
- Thornless Blackberry -- giant berries; ripens over long period; hardy to sub-zero temperatures;
- Trailing Blackberry (Rubus ursinus) -- choice native blackberry;
- Tree Blackberry -- large, delicious berries; huge bush, thorny, requires practically no care; adapts to wide variety of soils;
- Tropical Blackberry -- large berries up to 2 inches on extremely vigorous canes; bears in June and July;
- Waldo (Waldo Thornless) Blackberry -- high yields, highly flavored, easy to pick; introduced 1945 by Oregon State U.;
- Womack Blackberry -- averager size, some disease resistance;
- Youngberry (Thornless Youngberry) -- purplish-black, large (1.5 x 1.25 in), firm, shiny fruit; excellent flavor, less acid; canes immune to disease; very hardy, capable of surviving adverse weather; similar to Boysenberry, but ripens 10 days earlier with 20% less yield.
Sources of Information on Blackberry Cultivation
A number of schools (University of Arkansas, Texas A&M University, etc.) offer excellent reference material on blackberry cultivation. But by far the most consistently reliable source of information tailored to your climate and soils is your County Agricultural Extension Agent. You can find him (or her) listed in the county government section of your local phone book.
You can also order one of the following from Amazon.com:
- The Complete Guide to Growing Berries and Grapes
- Louise Riotte / Published 1993
- Gardening in the Inland Northwest : A Guide to Growing Vegetables, Berries, Grapes, and Fruit Trees
- Tonie Jean Fitzgerald / Published 1984
- Growing Berries and Grapes at Home
- J. Harold Clarke / Published 1976
- Successful Berry Growing; How to Plant, Prune, Pick, and Preserve Bush and Vine Fruits.
- Gene. Logsdon / Published 1974
- Alaska Wild Berry Guide and Cookbook
- Alaska Geographic Editors / Paperback / Published 1983
This page was updated April 14th, 2003.
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