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Quick facts

Common names: bramble, blackberry, European blackberry, black heg, wild blackberry

Scientific name: Rubus fruticosus

Family: Rosaceae

Origin: native

Flowering season: June to September

Habitat: woodland, grassland

What does bramble look like?

Bramble has long, thorny and arching stems and can grow up to two metres or more high.

Leaves: alternate and palmately compound. Each leaf is divided into three or five serrated, short-stalked, oval leaflets. Leaves are dark green on top and pale beneath. Leaf stalks and mid-ribs are prickly.

Flowers: clusters of white or pink flowers appear from late spring to early summer. They are 2–3cm in diameter with five petals and many stamens.

Fruits/seeds: the fruit, known as a blackberry, is 1–2cm in length and ripens from green through red, to deep purple and finally black when ripe in late July.

Not to be confused with: wild raspberry (Rubus idaeus) which also produces fruits made up of many tiny individual fruits or drupelets. They can all be a similar colour at certain times and ripen at similar times of the year. There are some differences to help identification. When a ripe raspberry is picked it is red and there is a hollow within the fruit. When a ripe blackberry is picked it is black and the soft white core remains inside the fruit. Dewberry (Rubus caesius) resembles bramble but tends to have fewer, larger individual fruits. Their fruit surface is waxy rather than shiny and their stems tend to scramble along the ground rather than being tall and arching.

bramble fruit

Credit: Ben Lee / WTML

Where to find bramble

Bramble grows almost anywhere in the UK. It is common in woodland, hedges and scrub, and thrives in acidic soils. Flowers bloom in June to July and the fruit is ripe in July.

bramble with grass snake

Credit: Andrew Parkinson / Alamy Stock Photo

Value to wildlife

Bramble flowers are a food source for honey bees and bumblebees and other wild animals. Leaves are eaten by certain caterpillars as well as some grazing mammals, especially deer. Ripe berries are eaten and their seeds dispersed by several mammals such as fox and badger, and small birds. Bramble is also a habitat for some animals, including grass snakes.

blackthorn berry being picked close-up

Visiting woods

Spot the signs of the seasons

Have you seen your first butterfly or swallow of spring? Or your first ripening berry or autumn leaf tint? Let us know what's happening to animals and plants near you and help scientists track the effects of climate change on wildlife.

Natures Calendar
bramble flower

Credit: Ilene Sterns / WTML

Mythology and symbolism

UK folklore dictates that blackberries should not be picked after Old Michaelmas Day in October, as the Devil has sullied them. Brambles used to be planted on graves to stop sheep grazing, but might also have had the more superstitious purpose of keeping the dead in. 

Did you know?

Archaeologists have found blackberries in the stomach of a Neolithic man, a testament to their long-standing popularity!

Uses of bramble

The pastime of blackberry picking (blackberrying) goes back thousands of years and is still popular. Ripe juicy blackberries have high vitamin C content and can be eaten raw or cooked. You can add them to pies, crumbles, wines, jams, jellies and vinegar. Strong ale brewed from blackberries, malt and hops was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It’s been widely been used in traditional medicine for its healing and detoxifying properties and fibres from its stems have even been used to make string.

Blackberry bushes can prevent soil erosion on infertile, disturbed sites and the ancient Britons used thorny stems as a boundary or barrier in the way we use barbed wire.

Man picking blackberries into a basket

Blog

How to make bramble whisky: recipe for blackberry liqueur

George Anderson  •  12 Aug 2019

Read our simple and easy recipe for this delicious foraged blackberry liqueur, or bramble whisky. You'll love this homemade tipple, it's sure to impress!

Read the recipe