In defence of the common blackberry


“The old ironic name of “lawyers” for blackberries has been exported from England to the United States: in either case, once in their clutches you never escape! (Perhaps the makers of the handheld wireless device of the same name hoped for the sense of being captured by their product.)” states my beloved book “backyard medicine” by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal. And this is how I spent Queen’s Birthday: ripping out blackberries, not to honour her, but to reclaim a piece of land which was invaded by our neighbour’s blackberries.


But how on earth could I defend these vicious ramblers, still feeling the bits of thorns in my fingers? Even the most bellicose weed warrior must admit that blackberries are one of the best fruits on the planet. And there is something about a blackberry patch which I repeatedly encountered: the soil, once cleared from the thorny bushes was nice and fertile. They arch over, once a branch touches the ground it forms roots at the tip and the old canes underneath die. Like that they invade more and more land unless kept in bay by a hungry animal which might eat the young leaves. In this mess of dead and new canes, I encountered a healthy avocado seedling, half a meter high. And that is maybe how blackberries would eradicate themselves if left on their own device: trees would grow and shade them out. I know, there are landscapes in Australia were this does not happen, but oftentimes agricultural landscapes are pretty much devoid of life, no hedgerows, few trees and you hardly hear birds at all. How would seeds fly in?

By now, masses of people probably have eaten me alive and I go on and to mention blackberries make good medicine: blackberry leaf tea is mainly used for diarrhoea and gum disease, soothing sore throats and treating colds.

I will see if that poor avocado tree survives frost after being bared from its shelter, but the winter is expected to be a cold one.

For my own use, I grow the non-weedy and less hurtful thornless variety. Some fruit lack quality when the thorns are bred away, but not in the blackberries, I find them just as good:  Thornless blackberry plants available!

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