Himalayan blackberry vs. native blackberries

kathy_whatcomco_waJune 28, 2006

I've recently moved to NW Washington. We have a couple of acres we intend to build on, and it has a bunch of blackberries on it. I know we want to remove any Himalayan blackberries, but we would keep at least some if they were native blackberries. How do you tell what kind they are?

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Do a web search for "Rubus ursinus". The native are quite different, ropey and creeping on the ground except where supported by a shrub, boulder or fence. All blackberries with tall, self-supporting, thick and stiff canes are exotic weed species. The Himalayan blackberry (R. armeniacus) and evergreen blackberry (R. lacinatus) are the locally prevalent ones.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 3:08PM
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Thats true! Its aslo easy to tell the leaves appart once you see the different shapes. Some are very deeply notched, some are big and sort of a rounded tear drop shape. Others are smaller. When you do decide to start getting rid of the ones you dont want, folks will sugjest all sorts of methods. One organic method that works for me has been to clip all the vines I can get to, to about 7 inches from the ground. Then rake or pitchfork through the area, or weed whack it, or what ever you have to do to be able to see the ground. Then dig the roots. This is not as daunting as it seems. Many runners go back to the same big knoted root. digging down around the root below the dirt will reveal a smaller tap toot or (or 2or3 ) cut these with your loppers. if you are facing a huge thicket, just start at the edge, and cut back vines 4 feet or so at a time. HINT: it takes a little longer, but if you stack the limb/vines as you go in a bundle going the same direction as best you can combining the small piles into big ones, there is very little clean up and they fit into the yard debree/utility trailor better. You probably dont want to compost these unless you have lots of spare room, the leaves will drop off quickly, but the stalks can take a couple years to break down. Some bigger ones Ive found dry a year later and actually used as sarter fuel for the fire. It can be done, but you will have to go back and keep the area clear of roots that you missed for a couple years. the point of triming them back first, is that if you didnt get them all dug now, you could do it in the fall, but you dont want them going to seed, or more likely tip rooting. every where a vine lops over ands touches the ground, it will try to plant a root. My garden was at one point almost taken over by these monsters. Now they are about 98% under control. It was lots of work but well worth it to do the right thing. I can look at all the little birds and critters guilt free, since I used no toxins in this process.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 5:58PM
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jennie(8 WA)

The native blackberries have thin floppy stems, about a quarter inch in diameter; the non-natives have very thick strong stems, easily at least half an inch in diameter. The native thorns are hairy splintery things, whereas the non-natives have ones more like rose thorns. The natives are done flowering and are nearly ripe now; while the non-natives are blooming with a few green berries.

Hope that helps!

Wear leather gloves, sturdy jeans and long sleeves to deal with these plants. When you get caught on the thorns move toward it's roots to get off of them.

I like to use a fork to dig the roots, it lets me loosen all around them rather than trying to go through them.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 7:10PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Himalayan and native also cross to produce Cascade berry. Himalayan actually European in origin, L. Burbank got seeds from cultivated(?) plants in Himalayan region and named one seedling 'Himalayan Giant'. Thousands of unwanted progeny later we call it Himalayan blackberry. ('Himalayan Giant' still listed and sold in UK).

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 12:06AM
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pianojuggler(z8b WA)

I have also heard that you want to let the vines dry out thoroughly before you put them in the compost, or any vine with any life left in it will re-sprout. They are pretty tenacious beasts. I drape the vines over my woodpile so no part touches the ground, and let them dry out for several months before they go through the chipper-shredder and into the compost heap.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 10:47AM
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dottyinduncan(z8b coastal BC)

I used to have a Samoyed (white husky) dog that loved to eat blackberries. I had to rescue him many times with loppers as he was totally imobilied with the thorns. Funny though..

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 10:50AM
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This thread is so timely for me since we too just moved to the area. Our entire backyard was covered with blackberries. We had a small excavator rip out about an acre of them. I have been going out every few days to dig where they have sprouted up again. A landscape designer neighbor told me to fence the yard and get a couple of pigs to take care of the rerooting problem:) I am hesitant to use herbicides since we do host a lot of wildlife.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 12:06PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Goats are most effective for vegetation control. Do not root around and muddy the soil, either, nor do they emit pig manure with its distinctive bouquet.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 3:00PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

We never seem to get rid of them. It is a perpetual battle, but we are getting philosophical about them and look at them as a free source of mulch after all the cutting, chipping, and digging tiny thorns out of my fingers. Mowing seems to be the easiest control for us, but they pop up in our borders and woods. I don't want to spray but have painted the cut surface with weed killer and it sets them back for a while at least. Digging out the roots is good if you can get them all.

My personal favorite for berries is the evergreen blackberry. It has better flavor than the Himalayan, is easier to control since the canes are not so long, and the native R. ursinus is not very productive, the berries are very small, and mold quickly. I once got sick after eating some slightly moldy ones.

I'm growing some thornless blackberries and will actually get a good crop this year so will report on how I like them.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 3:42AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

You can rent goats temporarily to clear your property of blackberries. They are that effective that people actually keep herds and rent them. A friend of mine just did this in Mollala.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 11:11AM
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Just remember that goats will eat most everything they have access to, including native plants or ornamentals you may be trying to retain. They act as browse-down mowers, and invasives often will resprout nicely after being eaten back, outcompeting slower growing desirable species.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2006 at 12:42AM
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