Rubus parviflorus (Thimbleberry)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; open woods, woodland edges, forest clearings, thickets, stream banks
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:3 to 6 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU 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: panicle

[photo of flowers] Clusters of 2 to 9 stalked flowers at stem tips of second year canes. Flowers are white, 1¼ to 2 inches across with 5 broad, rounded petals that often have the texture of crumpled tissue paper. In the center is a cluster of many styles surrounded by a ring of numerous yellow-tipped stamens that turn brown with age.

[photo of glandular-hairy calyx and stalks] Flower stalks are 1/3 to 1½ inches long, densely covered in a mix of short glandular and non-glandular hairs. The 5 sepals are broadly egg-shaped to triangular with an abrupt taper to a long, slender, tail-like tip, glandular on the back and short woolly-hairy on the inner surface, half or less as long as the petals (excluding the tail), and often reddish.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and alternate, roughly round or kidney shaped in outline, 4 to 11 inches long and about as wide, with (usually) 5 pointed lobes, palmate veins, and the base heart-shaped to deeply cleft. Edges are finely double-toothed, upper surface medium to dark green and sparsely hairy, lower surface paler green, hairy to sparsely hairy and glandular along the veins. Leaf stalks are 2½ to 7 inches long and covered in gland-tipped hairs. At the base of the leaf stalk is a pair of lance-shaped appendages (stipules) ¼ to ¾ inch long. Stems are mostly erect, mostly unbranched, glandular hairy the first year, becoming smooth with shedding gray-brown bark the second, dying out the third year. Stems have no bristles or prickles, do not root at the tip, and can form dense colonies from spreading rhizomes.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a hemispheric cluster, ½ to ¾ inch in diameter, with many fleshy druplets, maturing from pale pink to salmon colored to bright red, easily separating from the receptacle, mushy and somewhat bland tasting.


Thimbleberry is a common species of higher alpine regions of the Rockies and the western coastal range, but in the Upper Midwest it is only present in close association with the Great Lakes. It is nearly continuous along the Lake Superior shoreline from Duluth north but diminishes quickly as one heads inland. Without its highly conspicuous flowers or fruit, the leaves might be confused with maples, especially the shrubby Mountain Maple, (Acer spicatum) that is also prevalent in the same habitat. But the leaves of all Acer species are opposite, where the leaves of all Rubus species are alternate. The fruit may look tempting and indeed one shouldn't be afraid to try it, though when ripe, even the slightest knock can cause them to fall from their receptacle, and after a brief sweet/sour taste, the mushy berry turns bland in the mouth.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Cook and Lake counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties. Other photos by are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


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

Posted by: Marisa - Duluth
on: 2016-06-21 09:58:05

In bloom on Hawk Ridge now. I've seen these in past years and checked for berries, but I think I was too late in the season. I love the huge leaves!

Posted by: Bayers - Duluth, Chester Creek
on: 2016-07-13 09:47:38

I have found loads of thimbleberries around Chester Creek across from Saint Scholastica.

Posted by: Kirin P - Grand Portage State Park
on: 2017-08-15 13:18:38

Found last weekend along the paths to High Falls & Middle Falls at Grand Portage State Park. August 13th-14th, 2017.

Posted by: Jeff W - Minneapolis
on: 2017-12-14 20:35:46

I'm wondering if the MN strain of thimbleberry tastes different from an Upper Michigan strain. You describe the taste of the fruit as a brief sweet/sour taste that turns mushy and bland in the mouth. That is not my experience. I would agree that there is a burst of sweet/sour taste but then a flavor that is richer and more tart than raspberries. I don't know if you've ever eaten Thimbleberry jam but it is my all-time favorite because of the rich flavor and tartness. It is very expensive, $10 for a 9oz jar or you can make it yourself. Its very easy because the berries seem to have their own pectin so you don't need to add any and dilute the flavor. Bland is not an adjective that I would associate with Thimbleberries. I'm going to go to the North Shore next year and try some MN Thimbleberries to compare flavors.

Posted by: Genevieve Neff - Duluth
on: 2019-05-01 16:24:56

I have them in the woods along my yard and they are extremely invasive with roots going 12" deep. They can't be dug out as they are mixed in tree roots, under large rock, etc. Would never plant them.

Posted by: Julie Renollet - Temperance River by Tofte
on: 2019-06-30 00:14:30

Smelled a lovely perfume like smell while walking on the Temperance River hiking trail. We followed our noses and it led us to white flowers on a bush along the trail. They reminded me of wild roses that were in full bloom all over the area, but white in color. The leaves had five points and did remind us of a maple leaf. Looked the plant up when we got home. Thimbleberry. I’d sure like to try the berries when they are ripe!

Posted by: James - Schroeder, MN
on: 2019-07-15 12:28:54

Thimbleberry is pervasive on our property up on Minnesota's north shore, as we're located on a ridge line about a mile inland. They are really taking over and extremely difficult to contain. I assume we'll have to keep cutting it back before it fruits, so it can't drop any more seeds. If anybody has tips for how to control Thimbleberry and keep it from spreading, I am all ears!

Posted by: Mary - Carlton County
on: 2019-10-16 18:25:13

Much to my surprise, I found a small patch of about 5 plants in SE Carlton County (Holyoke Township). This is the furthest south I have seen them in MN. There is a roadside patch due east in Douglas County WI.

Posted by: Sherman - Duluth
on: 2022-07-04 09:09:09

They grow in Duluth along Vermilion Rd near the John Millen mansion [built in 1912 but he died in 1916]. They're in my woods and also along Basswood avenue. Two years ago my neighbor and her daughter discovered a huge patch of them while exploring the woods up the hill from the Helmer I. Carlson baseball fields. (My dog and I passed through those 3 to 4 ft. tall Thimbleberries several years earlier) She said they looked like some kind of raspberry. I said that they were, and are edible. Wikipedia's article on Rubus parviflorus tells how to make thimbleberry jam.

Posted by: Kathryn L. Doyle - North Shore
on: 2022-09-05 13:13:47

Found so many thimble berries last week while camping along the North Shore. What a delicious treat! Is this late for the berries?

Posted by: Donna Crider - Gooseberry Falls State Park
on: 2023-07-03 22:47:21

Blooming now (early July)

Posted by: Sherman in Duluth - Duluth
on: 2024-06-16 10:31:54

In my 2022 comment, I mentioed Wikipedia's article on Rubus parviflorus telling how to make thimbleberry jam. The recipe is no longer mentioned in the article, though it says that the berries can be made into a jam which is sold as a local delicacy in some parts of their range. [Hint: Equal measure of sugar to clean berries.]

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