Common blackberry is an erect shrub, the branches occasionally to 8 feet and arching high or being supported by surrounding trees or shrubs.
Leaves are alternate, compound, with 3–5 leaflets; leaflets 2½–4 inches long, egg-shaped, edges coarsely toothed; medium green above, paler below. The end leaflet on primary canes are 3¼–5 inches long, or 2–3 times longer than broad.
Stems consist of canes with broad-based, recurved thorns. The primary (first-year) canes are green to reddish, ribbed, with numerous prickles. Flower canes (second year) are brown.
Flowers April–June, in clusters 4–5 inches long, or 2–4 times as long as broad, rather elongated and cylindrical. Flowers 6–12 and sometimes to 30, showy, ¾ inch across, petals 5, white oval; stamens numerous.
Fruits June–August. Abundant, deep violet to black, glossy juicy, sweet, globe-shaped or cylindrical, about ¾ inch long.
Similar species: Rubus is a large genus with nearly 30 species recorded in Missouri. Included in the genus are blackberries, raspberries, loganberries, dewberries, and brambles. The members of genus Rubus often interbreed and hybridize, and the canes often change their appearance between first and second growing seasons, making them a tricky group even for botanists to sort out. The genus has been divided into 6 subgenera and sections in our state.
Height: 5 feet; spread: 8 feet.
Widespread in Missouri.
Habitat and Conservation
Blackberry is widespread in Missouri and is found in rocky, open woods, along bluffs and fencerows, on glades, and in thickets, old fields, and open valleys. Often associated with gray dogwood, viburnum, and sumac. This is only one of several species of blackberry in our state. Common blackberry is highly variable depending on genetic strain, growing conditions, and intergrading with related species and within its own species.
This fast-growing, colony-forming shrub is the original wild form from which many of the cultivated blackberries have been selected, and berry-pickers of all stripes brave scratches and chiggers as they collect these juicy berries for pies, preserves, or just plain eating.
“Please don’t throw me into the briar patch!” The real truth about blackberry bushes is that the prickles are worth braving — whether you’re a rabbit seeking shelter or a berry-picker hunting the delicious fruits.
Provides food and cover for many wildlife species. Deer eat the fruit and browse tender canes. Much of the summer diet of turkeys is composed of the fruit. Many small animals find much-needed shelter within the maze of prickly stems in a blackberry “briar patch.”