Elmleaf Blackberry

Rubus ulmifolius Schott

It is a member of the Rubus fruticosus aggregate.

Order - Rosales

Family - Rosaceae


Other Names:


Small Leaf Blackberry.


A semi deciduous, prickly shrub with straight to curved thorns on the angles of the long canes and red to black berry fruit. It has pink flowers.





Compound. Leaflets 3 or 5, arranged pedately, lower petiolule 1-3(4) mm long, lateral petiolule 2-15 mm long, terminal petiolule 10-30 mm long; basal leaflet pair rarely lobed.

Stipules - Attached to petiole.

Petiole - Petiole 25-55(60) mm long.

Blade - of terminal leaflet 35-65 mm long, 20-45 mm wide, elliptic to broadly elliptic, base rounded, margin finely toothed (serrate), apex pointed (acute to acuminate), lower surface white or grey-green, densely and minutely felted, pilose hairs lacking, lamina obscure.


Primocanes widely spreading but not high arching, strongly angled, the angles furrowed or not; indumentum of sparse erect, tufted hairs, the cane appearing purple-black or of close dense appressed hairs and the cane appearing grey; white waxy covering present with age; prickles 7-9 mm long, straight or curved, declined, mainly confined to the angles, 3-10 per 5 cm length.

Floricane similar to primocane, closely densely pubescent with erect tufted hairs; leaves with 3 leaflets, basal pair sometimes lobed, sometimes simple at the base of the inflorescence; petiole 20-55 mm long; lateral petiolule 1-10 mm long, terminal petiolule 10-25 mm long; terminal leaflet 25-80 mm long, 20-55 mm wide.

Flower head:

Inflorescence compact, cylindrical; rachis indumentum a close dense covering of erect non-glandular hairs.



Ovary -

Styles - pale green to brownish-pink.

Sepals - armed or not, densely non-glandular pubescent, apex shortly acuminate.

Petals - 8-10 mm long, 4-10 mm wide, broad elliptic to orbicular, pink, touching or almost touching, often slightly crumpled and cupped, apex entire or slightly irregularly toothed (erose).

Stamens - equal in length to styles; filaments white to deep pink;

Anthers - anthers with or without pilose hairs.



Young carpels pubescent.



Crown and long laterals. Usually non suckering.

Key Characters:

Primocanes low arching, glabrous, often with whitish waxy layer with age, clearly angled, the angles flat or furrowed.

Upper and lower leaf surfaces differing markedly in colour, the lower whitish or grey-green.

Floral rachis densely pubescent with erect non-glandular hairs.

Petals pale pink, staying pink, touching in young flower, somewhat recurved with age.

Filaments and styles at similar level.

Adapted from Robyn and Bill Barker.


Life cycle:

Perennial. Tip roots in autumn.



By seed and tip rooting (layering).

Reproduces sexually and shows considerably more variation than other species in the Rubus fruticosus agg. (All other members of the R. fruticosus agg. reproduce asexually by apomixis).

Diploid and may be self incompatible.

Flowering times:

Early summer in WA.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:

Canes tip root.

Hybrids and Varieties:

Two varieties;

Rubus ulmifolius Schott var. ulmifolius. There is a small leaved variety in WA and other states however it doesn't appear to be genetically distinguishable for the larger leave varieties.

Rubus ulmifolius var. anoplothyrsus Sudre is thornless.


Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Origin and History:

Possibly originated in Italy and its natural range includes Britain, southern and central Europe to north-west Africa.

Introduced into Australia in the 1800's for their edible berries. Genetic analysis indicates that there was two separate introductions of the species into Australia.



Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium



Temperate. Mediterranean.


Prefers moist soil.

Plant Associations:



Fruit eaten fresh or made into jams and conserves.

Honey plant.


Weed of disturbed areas.


Not recorded as toxic.



Management and Control:

Goats provide a method of non-chemical control. Infested areas are grazed with 7.5 goats per ha in the first year, then 1.25 goats per ha in subsequent years.

Slashing alone is generally ineffective.

Multiple cultivations provide control but may lead to erosion and soil structure problems.

Scalping to 30 cm and root raking can be effective but may require a follow up with other control measures to control re-shooting root and stem fragments and seedlings. Rehabilitation of the site is often required to prevent reinfestation.

Mechanical removal, or slashing and burning followed by cultivation, can provide control if repeated regularly and then followed by planting of competitive, preferably perennial, pastures species that is grazed.

Seedlings rarely establish in dense pasture or undisturbed native vegetation.

Improving pasture management usually prevents reinfestation.

Control with herbicides is usually the most cost effective. Metsulfuron (Brush Off®) and triclopyr (Garlon®) or triclopyr plus picloram (Grazon®) have provided the best results. Glyphosate can be used in home garden or other sensitive areas. Apply herbicides when the plant is actively growing and has good leaf area.

Basal bark applications using Access® plus diesel can be used where canes are removed mechanically.

Dead stems may be burnt or slashed in the following season to allow access and rehabilitation of the site.

Fire provides little control alone but assists access for herbicide application or other controls.

In Pine plantations hexazinone can be used.

Follow up treatments are essential for high levels of control.

Low volume spraying is usually effective providing the amount of active ingredient applied per bush is kept constant.

For high volume spraying use 1 litre of mix for each 2.5 cubic metres of bush (or 2.5 square metres of low lying Blackberry). This is equivalent to about 4000 L/ha of spray mix being applied.

In large infestations, consider using the cheaper metsulfuron for a year or two to reduce the size of the infestation then follow up with the more effective and costly triclopyr + picloram herbicides.


Eradication strategies:

Mechanical control is difficult and most of the root system must be removed for effective control.

3 annual, summer applications of 1 L of Grazon® plus 250 mL of Pulse Penetrant® in 100 L of water generally gives very high levels of control. Replant native species after control has been achieved or establish a competitive, and preferably perennial, pasture species then graze to prevent seedlings establishing.

On large infestations, 10 g metsulfuron(600g/kg) plus 250 mL Pulse Penetrant in 100 L water, applied in summer when the plant is actively growing, provides a cheaper option to reduce the size of the infestation before Grazon® is used.

Herbicide resistance:

None reported.

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Blackberry (Rubus anglocandicans = Rubus discolor = Rubus procerus, Rubus fruticosus, Rubus ulmifolius)

Boysenberry (Rubus ursinus) has narrow straight thorns.

Cutleaf Blackberry (Rubus laciniatus ssp. laciniatus)

Kittatinny Blackberry (Rubus bellobatus)

Loganberry (Rubus loganobaccus, Rubus ursinus, Rubus x loganobaccus) has narrow straight thorns and usually flowers later than blackberry.

Mountain Raspberry (Rubus gunnianus)

Native Raspberry (Rubus hillii = Rubus moluccanus) has simple palmately lobed leaves.

Native Raspberry (Rubus parviflorus, Rubus rosifolius)

North American Dewberry (Rubus roribaccus)

Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)

Rose-leaved Bramble (Rubus rosifolius)

Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius)

Yellow Raspberry (Rubus ellipticus)

Rubus alceifolius

Rubus chloocladus

Rubus cissburiensis

Rubus koehleri

Rubus leightonii.

Rubus polyanthemus

Rubus pyramidalis

Rubus radula

Rubus rosaceus

Rubus selmeri = R. laciniatus.

Rubus vestitus

Apple (Pirus malus), Pear (Pirus communis), Quince (Cydonia vulgaris), Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica), Plum (Prunus domestica), Apricot (Prunus armeniaca), Almond (Prunus amygdalus), Peach (Prunus persica) and Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) are all in the same family as Boysenberry.

Plants of similar appearance:

See A key for weedy Blackberries and allied species in WA.


Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Cousens, R.D., Dodd, J. and Lloyd, S.G. (1997). Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. (Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia). P210.

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #1070.16.


Collated by HerbiGuide. Phone 08 98444064 or www.herbiguide.com.au for more information.