Rubus allegheniensis (Allegheny Blackberry)

Plant Info
Also known as: Common Blackberry
Genus:Rubus
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, shade, sun; average to dry soil; woodland edges, old fields, roadsides, brushy clearings
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:3 to 12 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flower cluster] Elongated, narrow raceme up to 8½ inches (8 to 22 cm) long, up to 2¾ inches (3 to 7 cm) wide, at the tips of short lateral shoots along 1-year-old stems, each cluster with 7 to 25 flowers. Flowers are white, 1 to ~2 inches (2.5 to 4.8 cm) across with 5 rounded petals. In the center is a green cluster of many styles surrounded by a ring of numerous, creamy white-tipped stamens.

[close-up of sepals and flower stalk] Cupping the flower are 5 green sepals, triangular to broadly elliptic, the tip abruptly narrowed with a tail-like extension, the outer surface moderately to densely covered in a mix of glandular and non-glandular hairs. Flower stalks are similarly hairy, and may also have a few prickles.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[leaf scan] Leaves are alternate and palmately compound, the non-flowering first-year stems (primocanes) with 5 leaflets or sometimes 3 on the lower stem, the flowering second-year stems (floricanes) with mostly 3 leaflets. Leaflets are generally elliptic, sharply toothed around the edges, sparsely hairy on the upper surface, velvety hairy on the lower. The terminal leaflet on primocanes is 3 1/3 to 5 1/3 inches (8.5 to 13.5 cm) long, up to 3½ inches (4 to 9 cm) wide, widest near the middle or towards the base, slightly to distinctly heart-shaped at the base, abruptly tapered to an extended or tail-like tip.

[photo of leaf stalk] Leaflet stalks are variably covered in non-glandular hairs, often mixed with glandular hairs, and scattered broad-based, curved prickles. At the base of the compound leaf stalk is a pair of appendages (stipules), lance-linear, up to about ½ inch (6 to 12+ mm) long.

[photo of stem prickles, hairs, and stipules] Prickles are up to about ¼ inch (4 to 6+ mm) long, broad-based, straight to slightly curved, very sharp, and moderately abundant but unevenly spaced along the stem. The upper stem may also have scattered glandular hairs, though these can wear away as the season progresses. Stems are up to 12 feet (to 3.7 m) long, green to dark red or purple, initially erect, becoming arching, but the tip not usually reaching the ground so not rooting at the tips, and die the second year after fruit matures. Colonies may form from spreading rhizomes.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a round to cylindric cluster of fleshy drupelets, up to about ½ inch (8 to 15 mm) diameter, maturing from green to red to black, and are quite tasty.

Notes:

Allegheny Blackberry is the most common Blackberry species in Minnesota, where it reaches the northwestern edge of its range. It's more shade-tolerant than most and can grow under fairly dense tree canopy, but is more often found in the part shade of woodland edges, less often in old fields, wetland edges, or roadsides. The preference is for sandy soil but it tolerates loam and even clay.

Rubus is a large and difficult genus; both first year (non-flowering primocane) and second year (flowering/fruiting floricane) stems from the same plant may be necessary for a positive ID. Multiple species frequently grow together so stems from the same plant is recommended. Primocanes should be used for stem and leaf characteristics, floricanes mostly for just flowers and fruit. Characteristics to look for are the size and shape of the flower cluster as well as the flower, whether there are glandular and/or non-glandular hairs (on sepals, leaves, stalks and/or stems), whether there are any broad-based prickles or needle-like bristles, number of leaflets on the primocane and whether they are palmately or pinnately compound, whether canes are low-growing or trailing along the ground and/or root at the tip. In some species, the leaflet shape may also be relevant. Floricane leaves are frequently different from primocane leaves in shape and/or number of leaflets so are not a good substitute, and keep in mind that primocanes mature and tip-rooting occurs later in the season than peak flowering time.

Allegheny Blackberry is identified by the combination of: abundant glandular hairs on sepals and flower stalks, usually some also on leaf stalks and the upper portion of stems; prickles are broad-based, straight to slightly curved, 4 to 6+ mm long; lower leaf surface is velvety hairy; the flower cluster is a narrow, elongated raceme with up to 25 flowers. Canes can reach over 10 feet in length and typically arch over but are not known to root at the tips. Primocane leaves mostly have 5 leaflets, sometimes 3 on the lower stem, the terminal leaflet has an extended tip (long-acuminate) and is somewhat to distinctly heart-shaped at the base.

In many references several other Rubus species are lumped in with R. allegheniensis, including R. alumnus and R. rosa, but we follow the treatments by Mark Widrlechner and documented by Welby Smith in his book “Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota”, which keeps them split as separate species. All have velvety leaves, broad-based prickles and a mix of glandular and non-glandular hairs. R. ithacanus also has these traits but is low-growing, the canes trailing along the ground and rooting at the tips.

R. allegheniensis most closely resembles R. alumnus, which differs mostly by having a broader raceme (to 4 inches/10cm diameter) that also tends to be shorter and leafier. R. rosa also differs in the shape of the flower cluster—a broader raceme or sometimes more like a branched cluster than a raceme—as well as the terminal leaflet on primocane leaves being broadly egg-shaped to nearly round, at least ¾ as wide as long, the largest up to nearly 7 inches long. R. ablatus can have an elongated raceme like R. allegheniensis, but lacks any glandular hairs.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Dakota, Hennepin, Pine, Ramsey and Dakota counties. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Dakota County.

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