University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Anytime News Article
line
LESSER KNOWN BERRIES
 
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
           
There are several less common berry species related to the popular raspberries and blackberries, and in the same genus (Rubus).   If you like to eat these common berries and to grow your own fruit, and have the appropriate climate, then you may want to try these different berries that you often won’t find in stores.  At the least they’re worth knowing about as you may see them in books, or their products online and in specialty food stores.
          
The Salmonberry (R. spectabilis), a native of western North America in zones 5-9 (to -20F degrees in winter), was a food of native peoples who, it is told, ate these fruits with salmon.  It is related and similar to the raspberry, only the canes are perennial not biennial, and the larger fruits vary from yellow to orange-red.  They are borne on shrubs anywhere from 3 to 12 feet high, in mid-summer in the Pacific Northwest to late summer elsewhere.  They may be eaten raw, but often if tart are best in jams or cooked.  It is a vigorous shrub of streambanks and temperate moist forests, and outside such areas might become invasive.
           
The  Thimbleberry (R. parviflorus) is a relative of the raspberry and looks like one with red fruit in late summer on shrubs to 6 feet high.  Unlike the raspberry, fruit are tart so best in jams; the shrubs have no thorns; leaves are large and palm-shaped; flowers are quite large (hence another name of “flowering raspberry”); and it prefers part shade and moist soils.  When picked, the fruit with hollow centers resemble a thimble.  This hardy native plant of the west (zones 3-9 or to -30F and below in winter) is found in the Plains up to Alaska, higher altitudes down to Mexico, and upper Midwest.  It had many uses by native peoples including boiling the bark for soap, the leaves for a medicinal tea, and powdering the leaves to apply to burns.  Current gardeners find it useful in edible landscapes as an ornamental.
            
The dewberry is the name applied to a group of several trailing blackberry species, often sweeter, and generally growing as an evergreen shrub in zones 5 to 9.  The southern species is often found growing along roads and railway tracks.  Native peoples of the South used it to make dyes (so make sure not to get the juice onto clothes!).  You may find several cultivars of dewberry, ‘Austin’ and ‘Lucretia’ being perhaps the most commonly seen improved selections.

Hybrids of the red and black raspberries have resulted in several lesser known brambles, grown mainly in the Pacific Northwest and California since they aren’t very hardy (generally zones 6 to 9 without protection, or to -10F degrees in winter).  They have trailing habits, and the fruit clings to the central core (receptacle) similar to blackberries.  The Youngberry is a cross between a hybrid and the Austin Mayes dewberry, first made in 1905 by a businessman by this name in Louisiana and introduced in 1926.  The hybrid he used, the Phenomenal Berry, was a blackberry and raspberry cross made by Luther Burbank.  The youngberry is trailing, with purplish-black fruit earlier than blackberries.

The Loganberry was made in the early 1880’s in California by a horticulturist with this name.  It resulted from crossing the European red raspberry cultivar ‘Red Antwerp’ with the American blackberry cultivar ‘Aughinburgh’. The conical red fruit wasn’t flavorful, so not popular, but this hybrid was used in further breeding.

Crossing the loganberry with a raspberry in Scotland in 1962 gave us the Tayberry, named after the Tay river there.  Its red fruit are larger and sweeter than the Loganberry, and ripens mid-season.

A cross in the 1980’s in Scotland between the tayberry and a hybrid seedling gave us the Tummelberry.  Its deep red fruit are conical, late in the season, and retains the core when picked.
 
Similar to the tayberry is the Wyeberry, only it is more winter hardy and tolerant of fluctuating temperatures, but quite thorny.  It looks like a red raspberry, tastes like one with some boysenberry flavor, and has higher yields than many raspberries but fruit may be hard to pick.  It was developed at the University of Maryland.

Many have heard of boysenberries, most likely from syrups or jams, and in particular the ones that made Knott’s Berry Farm famous.  This fruit was a 3-way cross between the loganberry, a raspberry, and a blackberry. In the 1920’s, a berry farmer named Knott from southern California and the USDA breeder George Darrow (as in the Darrow and Olallie cultivars, among others) visited the former farm in northern California of a man named Boysen.  There they found some vines Boysen had bred, hidden among the weeds.   Knott took these back to his farm, nurtured and began cultivating them, and in 1932 began selling the popular large and tasty dark berries at his then farm stand, and named them after their original source.  You may find plants both with or without thorns.
           
The wineberry (R. phoenicolasius) was introduced from Asia both as an ornamental, and to breed with raspberries.  It has naturalized since then in the wilds in many areas and has become invasive.  The Marionberry is actually just the cultivar Marion of blackberry (named for the county where it was tested in Oregon), being a hybrid of two other blackberries. Similarly, the Olallieberry is the cultivar Olallie (from the Chinook name for berry) —a cross of youngberry and loganberry.
           
More on brambles, their culture, and cultivars can be found online (homefruitgrowing.info) or from the Fruit Gardener’s Bible by Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry.


Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles uvmext logo