Watch out for those brambles underfoot
DID YOU ever trip on a briar? Brambles are both the delight and the bane of those who walk in the countryside. A bush laden with juicy blackberries in late summer or early autumn demands that one stops to pick and to savour the collection of tasty black drupes joined together to form the familiar wayside wild fruit. Blackberries are a truly lovely if somewhat underrated fruit.
The downside of the Bramble comes when it's arching and trailing stems root. An arching stem roots, arches on and roots again to form multiple, hooped, snare-like traps hidden in the grass. Armoured with sharp, curved prickles these snares are likely to catch the toe of the unwary walker. The danger of being tripped by these Bramble traps seems to be particularly acute while on a nature trail at this time of year.
All flowering plants are divided into three simple categories depending on how long they live. Annuals complete their life cycle within one calendar year; seed germinates in the spring, the plant grows to maturity and flowers during the summer and it fruits and dies down in autumn.
Annual plants live their whole lives in just one year. Biennials take two years; they grow during the first year but don't flower and fruit until the following year. Perennials are long-lived flowering and fruiting over a number of years.
Brambles are a mixture in that the underground rootstock is perennial whereas the stems that make up the aerial shoot are biennial. Bramble roots penetrate deep into the soil and live for many years. The rootstock throws up new stems each spring. Each trailing stem normally lives for only two years.
First year stems can be a few metres long, have large leaves each with 5-7 leaflets, don't bear flowers or fruit and can sometimes root when they touch the ground forming snares and giving rise to daughter plants. During the second year the first year stems produce side shoots that are short, have smaller leaves each with 3-5 leaflets, bear flowers and fruits and don't root.
Brambles are aggressive invaders of waste ground where they quickly form a thicket, the dense tangles of arching stems being commonly known as briars.
Over 80 different kinds of Bramble have been identified in Ireland. They are an extremely difficult group so only a handful of specialists tackle the job of telling the many, almost identical, different kinds apart.
Over 80 different kinds of bramble have been identified in Ireland.