European Blackberry aggregate

Rubus fruticosus L. agg.

Rubus fruticosus is an aggregate of species including at least 15 separate species in Australia 964. R. anglocandicans, R ulmifolius var. ulmifolius and possibly R. rugosus occur in WA. In addition to these, R. echinatus, R. erythrops, R. laciniatus, R. leucostachys, R. leightonii, R. leucostachys, R. leucostachys Foster biotype, R. phaeocarpus, R. polyanthemus, R. riddelsdellii, R. rubritinctus, R. ulmifolius var. anoplothyrsus, R. vestitus, and an unnamed species from Tasmania and possibly an unnamed species from Scott Creek in SA occur in the eastern states.

Synonyms -

Rubus chloocladua = R. anglocandicans or R. vestitus, Rubus discolor = R. anglocandicans, Rubus procerus = R. anglocandicans, Rubus pyramidalis is close to R. anglocandicans and R. polyanthemus, Rubus selmeri = R. laudatus or R. laciniatus. There is also a group of related hybrids.

Family: - Rosaceae.


Rubus is from the Latin ruber meaning red and refers to the red immature berries.

Fruticosus is from the Latin frutex meaning thick with leaves or bushy.

Blackberry refers to the black, berry like fruits.

Anglocandicans refers to its origin in England.

Other names:

Bramble (UK)

European Blackberry (USA)


Blackberry is a semi deciduous, perennial shrub with scrambling, arching, prickly stems (canes) that may form dense, tangled thickets to 4 m high. The stems take root where they touch the ground, often forming dense thickets. The broad leaves are 3-15 cm long and divided into 3-5 toothed leaflets. The white or pink-tinged flowers each have 5 rounded petals that are 7-20 mm long and have numerous stamens. The succulent and delicious fruits are an aggregation of numerous tiny fruitlets that are initially red but turn black as they mature.

Native to Europe, Blackberry is a declared plant and a serious weed of creeklines, spreading into forest and woodland along water courses. It flowers in late spring and summer.



Two. Oval, 10 mm long, with a short petiole.

First leaves:

Simple, spade or heart shaped, 20-25 mm long by 20-25 mm wide with toothed edges and a long distinct petiole. There are fine hairs on the petiole and the both surfaces of the leaf especially along the midrib. There are spines on the lower side of the midrib and petiole. It does not form a rosette.


Alternate with 1-5 leaflets with prickles on underside mid rib. Lower 2 or 4 leaflets arise from the same point on the petiole. Upper side dark green, underside lighter due to fine downy hairs. Usually shed in winter.

Stipules - narrow, parallel sided with glands. Attached to the petiole.

Petiole - 10-50 mm long with prickles underneath.

Blade - Of leaflets, egg-shaped to circular with a pointed tip or tiny spine, toothed edges, dark green on top and lighter underneath. Become almost hairless and shiny on top and furry underneath. Terminal leaflet, 20-90 mm long by 12-55 mm wide, on 5-40 mm long stalks. Side leaflets have shorter stalks, 2-10 mm. Prickles on midribs of leaflets on the underside.


Many, arising from the base, up to 7000 mm long, soft and green at the tips to woody and red purple below, may be branched, green to reddish purple, round, ribbed or angular and 5 sided, initially erect and becoming arching and straggling, woody, forms roots where they touch the ground. Few to many, usually curved prickles or thorns, 3-12 mm long. Some species have straight prickles. May have glandular hairs when young or develop a scaly white covering with age. Some varieties have moderately hairy canes. The canes usually only live for 2 years, but some live longer.

Flower head:

Many flowered, pyramidal panicle on the ends of side branches of flowering canes (floricanes). Almost leafless. Axis grey to white hairy with variable curved prickles.


White to pink, bisexual, 5 petalled, 15-30 mm diameter on hairy stalks with a few prickles.

Ovary - Style green or pink, 2 mm long. Carpels hairy or hairless.

Sepals - 5, 5-10 mm long by 3 mm wide, tapering pointed tips. Bend back at flowering. Outer surface hairy. No pickles.

Petals - 5, egg-shaped to circular, crumpled, wavy edges, pale to deep pink or white or bluish, 7-18 mm long, longer than the sepals.

Stamens - Many. Filaments, green, white or pale pink, 2-6.5 mm long.

Anthers - 0.5 mm long.


A close cluster, 10-30 mm diameter of shiny, globular, one seeded, fleshy drupelets (berries) on a small pithy core. Green initially then red then turning purple-black when ripe. Ripe fruit can usually be found from late December to April. Up to 80 drupelets in each berry. In R. anglocandicans there was an average of 95 (0-1025) fruit/plant, 16 (1-30) seeds/fruit and 1800 (0-30400) seeds/plant962. Conical receptacle dispersed with the fruit.


Light to dark brown, triangular to oval, 2-3 mm long and pitted deeply and irregularly.


Large, woody crown, up to 200 mm diameter but are typically 10-90 mm in R. anglocandicans, at ground level. Shallow taproot to 1500 mm deep and extensive shallow lateral roots spreading several metres from the crown and mainly within the top 200 mm of soil. Lateral roots tend to grow horizontally from the crown then turn downwards. Thin roots arise from the laterals roots and grow in all directions. Usually non suckering.

Key Characters:

Woody, prickly shrubs.

Leaves of 3-5 pinnate leaflets, or, when 5 the 4 lower ones digitate, i.e. proceeding from the same point on the petiole.

Leaflets toothed.

Buds sub globose

No floral tube.

Petals pink or white.

Calyx single, 6-9 mm long, reflexed.

Carpels becoming little drupes united in a juicy head on the convex torus.

Fruit black.

Various subspecies are often distinguished on the shape and covering of the canes (turio or primocanes) arising from the rootstock.

From J.M. Black, N.T. Burbidge and E.M. Bennett.


Life cycle:

Perennial. Flowers November to January. Fruits January to April. Seeds germinate from spring to autumn and grow very slowly in the first year usually reaching 50-70 mm height with 3-6 leaves but have a disproportionately large root system. After 3 or 4 years, they develop into a shrub about 1000 mm round. In winter they loose most of their leaves and grow very slowly. In spring and summer they produce new leaves and canes quickly. First year canes(primocanes) emerge, in late winter, from the central crown that may be up to 200 mm round. The primocanes grow very quickly at 50-80 mm per day. New plants are formed vegetatively the next autumn when primocanes form roots where the tips touch the ground. Flowering canes emerge from the primocanes in the second and later years. Canes live for 2-4 years before dying off and old thickets may have over half the canes dead. They flower mainly in the spring and early summer and have ripe fruit from February to April. Fragments of roots and canes may also form new plants. Damaged roots will produce suckers from up to 450 mm deep. Suckering is also common after treatment with herbicides, mechanical removal or cultivation.


Tolerates full sun to full shade but plants grow slowly and rarely flower in full shade.

Tolerates frost, fire, drought and periodic inundation.


By seed, root suckers and daughter plants form where canes contact the ground and take root.

Most species (except Rubus ulmifolius) produce seed without fertilization. Pollen is required to stimulate ovule development but doesn't fertilize the egg. The pollen can come from the same or other Blackberry plants. The resulting plants are called apomicts and are clones of the mother plant. This means they are very unlikely to develop herbicide resistance or tolerance to biocontrol agents.

Rubus ulmifolius reproduces sexually and requires cross pollination.

Flowering times:

Summer in NSW.

November to December in SA.

December and January in Perth.

November to May in WA 963

Late November to late February in Victoria.

Late spring to summer in SE Australia.

R. laudatus flowers in September to November in Perth and forms fruit in December.

R. anglocandicans tends to have it main flowering from December to January

Seed Biology and Germination:

Fresh seed has a low germination percentage of 10-30%.

Doesn't germinate in dense shade.

Up to 13000 seeds/m2 have been recorded. In WA, an average of 8600 seeds/m2 were produced by R. anglocandicans 962.

Seed short lived in the soil.

Vegetative Propagules:

Tip rooting canes, root fragments, root suckers and cane cuttings. Stems coppice profusely when cut.


Thornless cultivars have been selected for commercial fruit production.


Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Canes and roots are transported by earth moving equipment and water. Water, birds (especially emus) and foxes spread the seed. 570 and 2460 seeds have been recovered from fox and emu droppings respectively. Dumping of garden refuse is a common source of infestations.

Seedling survival is usually very low and they are very susceptible to shading and competition. Seedlings need at least 44% full sunlight for survival. Blackberry seedlings rarely establish in dense pasture or undisturbed native vegetation.

Most spread is from canes rooting at the tips and forming new daughter plants when the cane dies. Suckering can occur after spraying with hormone herbicides. In ungrazed situations the size of the thicket usually increases 1-2 metres per year.

Eastern Quolls spread seed in Tasmania.

Origin and History:

All are from Europe or close by.

R. anglocandicans is from central and eastern England.

Introduced for their fruit.

First recorded in South Australia in 1842 and probably introduced to both SA and NSW in the early 1830's.

Nine species were in the Melbourne Botanic gardens in 1851.

In the 1860's planting was encouraged in VIC and NSW.

Its weed potential became apparent in the 1880's and by 1894 it was proclaimed a noxious weed in Victoria.

Probably first naturalised around timber camps after intentional planting in WA and it became well established but has been drastically reduced over the last 40 years of control. Most infestations are now on public lands.



Widely distributed in the north and south of Tasmania where annual rainfall exceeds 700 mm. In the Midlands it is generally confined to streams.

In Victoria, some species have reached their climatic limits and other species are still spreading or are quite restricted in their distribution.

There are no native Rubus species in WA and five introduced Rubus species in WA. Two of these R. anglocandicans and R. ulmifolius are part of the European Blackberry Rubus fruticosus aggregate. Another two species, R. rugosus and R. parviflorus, have been collected in WA but have not been seen recently.

There is 8.8 million ha in Australia.


Water courses and damp areas.


Temperate, humid and sub-humid regions with an annual rainfall greater than 700 mm.


More abundant on fertile soils.

Plant Associations:

Red gum, jarrah, karri, grassland, grassy woodland, dry to wet sclerophyll forest, cool and temperate rainforest, fresh water wetlands and riparian communities and many others.



Blackberries are picked for food, preserves, jam, pies, wine, liqueurs.

Leaves are used as a tea substitute. Canes are used for securing thatch.

Fruit is rich in vitamin C

Pollen and honey are produced from it.

Has been used as a hedge plant and for controlling stream bank erosion.


Thickets provide a refuge from feral cats for native birds.

Used in herbal medicine for coughs, diarrhoea and blood cleansing.


Weeds of pastures, streams, bushland, roadsides, gardens, orchards, plantations and disturbed areas.

Invades pasture land and blocks creeks and rivers.

Reduces access to amenity areas and streams.

In some situations it destabilises banks by channelling water behind the bush to scour and dislodged a section of bank and Blackberry which is washed downstream.

Form impenetrable thickets that harbours vermin such as foxes and rabbits.

It is an important food source for introduced birds such as starlings and blackbirds.

Old infestations can be a serious fire hazard due to the large number of old dead canes.

Sheep can become entangled in the canes and die.

Very few companion plants survive in the thickets.

It delays or prevents regeneration of forests after thinning or cutting.

In plantations it reduces the growth and establishment of both softwood and hardwood species and interferes with logging.

In 1984 it was estimated that Blackberry in NSW, VIC and TAS was costing about $42M in lost production and control.

It is listed as a 'Weed of National Significance' and a 'Garden Thug'.


Not recorded as toxic.


Noxious weed of NSW, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, and WA.

Banned in New Zealand.

Management and Control:

Grazing prevents tip rooting, goats and deer are more effective than sheep and cattle. Sheep or cattle rarely eat leaves, but cattle nibble the new young shoots and cause trampling damage, which usually stops or slows the rate of spread.

Goats are becoming a favoured 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 ineffective but does assist the Blackberry rust biological control agent and can be used to allow access for drilling into the crown to apply herbicides.

If necessary, slash in winter before herbicide application. Late slashing can decrease the effectiveness of herbicides.

A single cultivation usually increases the infestation and multiple cultivations whilst effective may lead to erosion and soil structure problems.

Scalping to 30 cm and root raking can be effective and expensive and requires a follow up with other control measures to control re-shooting root and stem fragments and seedlings. Rehabilitation of the site is 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 are grazed by cattle or goats.

Blackberry seedlings rarely establish in dense pasture or undisturbed native vegetation.

Control with herbicides is usually the most cost effective. Metsulfuron and Triclopyr plus picloram have provided the best results. Glyphosate can be used in home garden or other sensitive areas. Dead canes may be burnt or slashed in the following season to allow access and rehabilitation of the site.

Hand weeding is difficult because the seedlings are difficult to pull and new plants often establish from broken roots.

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

Stagger the removal of large infestations to allow animals to relocate.

Triclopyr (Garlon®), triclopyr + picloram (Grazon®) generally provides good control any time the Blackberry is actively growing with good leaf area from October to April. Metsulfuron appears to have an optimal application time of November to March and glyphosate should be restricted to the December to March period.

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

In Pine plantations hexazinone can be used.

Follow up treatments are essential for high levels of control and to control suckering at the periphery of the bush in the season following spraying.

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 Blackberry 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.

It is difficult to eradicate. 3 annual, summer applications of 1 L of Grazon® plus 250 mL of Pulse Penetrant® in 100 L of water has provided eradication on 30% of sites when assessed 10 years later. Replant native species after control has been achieved.

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

Herbicide resistance:

None reported.

Biological Control:

Several biological control agents have been investigated for blackberry. A rust has been released and has established and is reducing the vigour of some varieties. In Victoria it is controlling 4 species, has no effect on 2 species and intermediate on the others. The rust produces both red fluffy spore bodies(uredospores) that spread the rust and black spore bodies(teleutospores) that survive over winter. It attacks the leaves mainly, but can also be found on the buds, green canes and unripe fruit. The rust causes a 2-3 mm purple blotch on the top of the leaf and red or black spores on the underside of the leaf. When heavily infested the leaf turns brown, withers and falls.

Three strains have been released in WA. The first in 1985, the second (F15 strain) in 1991 and a mixture of strains in 2005. These rusts have heavily infested the European Blackberry Rubus anglocandicans but have not established on the American Blackberry Rubus laudatus.

Related plants:

There are no native Rubus species in WA.

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

Bundy or Plains (American) Blackberry (Rubus laudatus) flowers in September to November with fruit in December - somewhat earlier than R. anglocandicans. The leaves tend to be green on the upper an lower surfaces rathe than whitish on the lower surface. The flowers are white with no pink tinges. Glandular hairs on the canes that look like red dots under a hand lens.

Blackberry (Rubus anglocandicans) is the main weedy variety in WA. Its main flowering is in December to January and it has white flowers (though it may be pinkish in the bud). The leaves tend to be whitish on the lower surface.

Blackberry (Rubus ulmifolius) has pinkish petals and smaller leaves than R. anglocandicans. Some varieties are thornless.

Boysenberry (Rubus ursinus) has narrow straight thorns.

Cutleaf Blackberry (Rubus laciniatus ssp. laciniatus) has cut leaf - see diagram.

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) is a native and has simple palmately lobed leaves.

Native Raspberry (Rubus parviflorus, Rubus rosifolius) is a native plant.

North American Dewberry (Rubus roribaccus)

Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)

Rose-leaved Bramble (Rubus rosifolius) is a native plant.

Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius)

Yellow Raspberry (Rubus ellipticus)

Rubus alceifolius

Rubus chloocladus

Rubus cissburiensis

Rubus discolor = Rubus procerus, Rubus fruticosus, Rubus ulmifolius) is not in Australia but the older literature refers to R. anglocandicans as R. discolor in Western Australia and R. procerus in the eastern states.

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 Blackberry.

Plants of similar appearance:

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

Dog Rose, Brambles, Loganberry, Boysenberry, Raspberry.


Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P217. Photos.

Barker, Robyn and Barker, Bill (2005). Blackberry. An identification tool to introduced and native Rubus in Australia. Edition 1.00. State Herbarium of South Australia.

Black, J.M. (1965). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P396.

Blood, K. (2001). Environmental weeds: a field guide for SE Australia. (CH Jerram & Associates, Australia). P80-81. Photos.

Burbidge, N.T. and Gray, M. (1970). Flora of the Australian Capital Territory. (Australian National University Press, Canberra). P192, 194.

Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.L. and Leigh, J.H. (1992). Plants of Western New South Wales. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P345.

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. Photo.

Hyde-Wyatt, B.H. and Morris, D.I. (1980) The Noxious and Secondary Weeds of Tasmania. (Tasmanian Department of Agriculture, Hobart, Tasmania). P48-49. Diagram.

Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne).

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #1070.4.

Marchant, N.G., Wheeler, J.R., Rye, B.L., Bennett, E.M., Lander, N.S. and Macfarlane, T.D. (1987). Flora of the Perth Region. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia). P210.

Meadly, G.R.W. (1965). Weeds of Western Australia. (Department of Agriculture - Western Australia). P87-90. Diagrams. Photos.

Moore, J.H. and Wheeler, J.R. (2002). Southern Weeds and their Control. Photos.

Muyt, A. (2001). Bush Invaders of South-East Australia: a guide to the identification and control of environmental weeds found in South East Australia. (R.G and F.J. Richardson, Australia). P219-221. Photos.

Parsons, W.T. and Cuthbertson, E.G. (1992). Noxious weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P577-582. Photos.


Collated by HerbiGuide. Phone 08 98444064 or for more information.