Rubus occidentalis (Black Raspberry)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist to dry soil; open woods, woodland edges, railroads, roadsides, fencerows, meadows, prairies
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:3 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

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

[photo of flowers] Clusters of 5 to 15 flowers at tips of lateral branches on 1-year-old stems. Flowers are white, 1/3 to ½ inch across with 5 oblong to narrowly spatula-shaped petals that are initially erect, becoming ascending to widely spreading. In the center is a cluster of many styles surrounded by a ring of numerous white stamens. Alternating with the petals are 5 sepals, broadly triangular tapered to a long, tail-like tip, longer than the petals, widely spreading to curved downward (recurved), pale green to gray-green, the outer surface covered in soft, non-glandular hairs. Flower stalks are hairless to short-hairy, with scattered broad-based, cat-claw-like prickles.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate and compound with typically 3 leaflets (trifoliate), rarely 5. Leaflets are egg-shaped to elliptic, mostly widest below the middle, the center leaflet long stalked, the lateral leaflets stalkless and occasionally shallowly lobed, typically 2 to 4 inches long, 1¼ to 3 inches wide, sometimes larger, with a long taper to a slender, pointed tip and rounded to heart-shaped at the base. Edges are coarsely double-toothed, upper surface is medium to dark green, mostly smooth, the lower surface silvery and densely hairy.

[photo of stem and stalk prickles] Leaf stalks are mostly smooth with a few straight to recurved prickles. At the base of the compound leaf stalk is a pair of thread-like appendages (stipules) about ¼ inch long. Stems up to 12 feet long, covered with a waxy bloom and scattered, very sharp prickles that are straight to slightly curved or angled downward. Stems are strongly arching and root at the tips. New canes (primocanes) are light green to blue-green, second year canes (floricanes) produce the flowering branches and are often reddish, the canes dying before the third year but new canes emerging from the rooted tips.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is round cluster, about ½ inch in diameter of fleshy druplets, turning purplish-black when ripe, do not easily pull free from the receptacle, and are quite tasty.


Black Raspberry is common throughout much of southern Minnesota and frequently found along roadsides and hiking trails. Its range northward is mostly limited by winter hardiness. Its seeds are readily and widely disseminated by both birds and mammals and establish easily, after which tip layering (rooting at the tips) often creates dense, nearly impenetrable colonies. It is easily recognized and "going black cap picking" is a favorite pastime. While it can be tempting to sneak an early taste of the near ripened berries, they will be quite tart until they've turned a dark purple black.

Rubus is a large and difficult genus; both flowering (floricane) and non-flowering (primocane) stems from the same plant may be necessary for a positive ID. Characteristics to look for are the size and shape of 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 slender bristles, number of leaflets and whether they are palmately or pinnately compound, whether the fruit easily separates from the receptacle, whether canes root at the tip. Black Raspberry has small flowers with widely spreading petals, stems are covered in a waxy bloom and smooth except for scattered broad-based prickles, leaves are nearly all compound in 3s (rarely 5s) and silvery on the underside, the fruit does not easily separate from the receptacle, and canes are strongly arching and root at the tips. Contrast with Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus), which is generally a smaller plant, primocanes with leaves mostly pinnately compound in 5s, lacks prickles but stems and stalks are glandular-hairy and bristly, fruit easily separates from the receptacle, and canes do not root at the tip.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka, Fillmore and Ramsey counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Linda - Eagan
on: 2016-05-28 13:13:49

Lots of black raspberries in woodland edges around here. But, I can't find any listing on your site for blackberries. in the Genus Rubus, although they are native. Am I just missing the listing?

Posted by: Helen Stoerzinger - Inver Grove Heights, Dakota County
on: 2018-08-02 13:59:18

I am encouraging the black raspberries that grow wild. I just cut the old canes and tied up the ones that will bloom and bear fruit next year. Now I also have (new!) six plants of blackberries, which branch out, stay lower, have more berries per cluster, more serious prickles. Should I encourage these too, or dig them out while there are only six? They appeared east of aspen & oak trees (and buck thorn), on land sloping to a street, among grasses and vetch.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-08-02 20:00:50

Helen, your new batch of canes might actually be a different Rubus species. There are about 2 dozen in MN and they frequently grow together. You might wait and see what happens to them next year and go from there.

Posted by: Gary - Carlton
on: 2019-03-04 00:11:46

This plant appeared in two places on my property about 10 years ago. One patch has become huge. It also grows in some wilder areas in the woods but is not so aggressive there. I've also seen it near the town of Carlton.

Posted by: Isaac Stay - Foley
on: 2019-07-21 11:06:08

Is there a marked difference between Black Raspberry and blackberry? Is blackberry a native plant? If so, a profile would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2019-07-21 11:45:29

Isaac, there are somewhere around 10 different blackberries out of the ~30 Rubus species in MN. It's a difficult group, but all the Rubus are native except R. parvifolius.

Posted by: Debra Zillmer - Houston County
on: 2020-07-17 22:26:43

We have abundant black raspberry bushes on our land & an equal number of non-fruit bearing bushes that appear very similar. Same leaf structure, thorns but no blooms or berries. What are these called so I can read about them.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-07-18 06:28:38

Debra, each plant has 2 stems. The first is called the primocane and has only leaves. The second year it produces flowers and fruits and is called the floricane. The floricane then dies and a new primocane emerges to start the cycle again. You are probably seeing primocanes.

Posted by: Brenda Nord - Alexandria
on: 2020-08-31 14:32:23

I planted 3 plants this spring that I bought and they were marked as black raspberry plants. They are in full sun. They did have a few berries on them so I think they may be black raspberries BUT they do not look or act like any raspberry plants I have seen in the past! They are all growing and green but are not growing up tall--the highest part of the plants is maybe only 18 inches off the ground and they are sending out long arms that lay on the ground and spread out like a giant spider or octopus!! I thought maybe they needed some kind of support so I got some tomato cages and threaded the long arms up through them to hold them up but all they did was grow longer and curve right back to the ground! What is gong on with these things???

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-08-31 18:40:23

Brenda, it doesn't sound like you have any kind of native Rubus, especially if you did not purchase it from a reputable native plant nursery. You might ask a Master Gardener about it, since they are more familiar with plants in the horticulture trade.

Posted by: Elizabeth Reed - Minnetrista
on: 2020-12-17 04:15:39

Found what I think are black raspberries in a ditch by our house next to a bunch of sumac this past July

Posted by: Ryder - Rice County
on: 2021-12-09 22:22:00

Are there any varieties of Black Raspberry? I have found a couple of patches of strange Rubus plants. I think they are a variety of this species because they are as tall as normal Black Raspberry plants, but have a yellowish to orange stem and produce orange to yellow fruits. The bloom is yellow to gray, and the leaves were the same as normal plants. I think the plants I have seen are floricanes. Also, the thorns are normal.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-12-10 07:58:10

Ryder, that does not sound like any kind of Rubus that's known to be in Minnesota. If you have any photos, post them on the Minnesota Wildflowers Facebook page and someone may be able to ID it. You might also try iNaturalist.

Posted by: Tracy Mongomery - Minneapolis north
on: 2022-07-14 19:02:06

We have a blackcap raspberry plant growing next to our garage. I am guessing the birds planted it... thanks birds!

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