5 BRAM­BLE Rubus fruiti­co­sus

Wide­spread and seen in a va­ri­ety of habi­tats, es­pe­cially hedgerows. Small, rose-like flow­ers bloom through­out the sum­mer months.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Weeds -

There are over 400 de­scribed mi­crospecies of bram­ble in the UK alone – each vary­ing in the size and shape of leaf, growth habit and fruit. So rich and com­plex is the world of the com­mon black­berry plant, that the study of it has its own word: ba­tol­ogy. It’s a plant we tend to love and hate in equal mea­sure, de­pend­ing on con­text.

The re­curved thorns that arm its arch­ing stems – serv­ing as both a de­fense against browsers and as ‘grap­pling hooks’ – are the main rea­son for an­i­mos­ity. How­ever, they serve to pro­tect more than the plant it­self – they also act as a nurs­ery for saplings, pro­tect­ing them from the pre­da­tions of brows­ing her­bi­vores, such as deer, while also hold­ing the nests of plenty of species of bird and mam­mal safe in their thorny arms. Highly palat­able leaves, many of which re­main through the win­ter months, are a vi­tal salad to sev­eral species – from roe deer to bram­ble-min­ing moths, which leave wan­der­ing spiro­graph-like pat­terns.

A rea­son that lots of us can’t to­tally turn against it is the fruits ( above) — or, more ac­cu­rately, the ‘dru­pes’. Each one is ac­tu­ally a clus­ter of up to 50 in­di­vid­ual ‘black berries’, called dru­pelets, which con­tain a tiny seed (the ones that get stuck be­tween your teeth). Th­ese sugar-and-vi­ta­min parcels are the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion be­hind the only wild food for­ag­ing many of us do – the an­nual sport of ‘black­ber­ry­ing’. As well as a bounty for many birds and in­sects, bad­gers and foxes can over in­dulge in this sea­sonal bounty – as ev­i­denced by the vast quan­ti­ties of pur­ple poo vis­i­ble dur­ing the late sum­mer months.

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