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Blackberry: Half Plant, Half Critter, Half Devil

By On

​This is a battle report. A battle against an enemy which is certainly unbeatable except within a localized zone of control.

According to WIkipedia, the Himalayan blackberry, rubus armenaicus, is more correctly called the Armenian blackberry , as it is native to Armenia and northern Iran. The Turks found it easier to eliminate the Armenians than to get rid of the blackberry, so perhaps the name is aspirational to that poor set-upon tribe.

I’ve been learning the hard way how to fight this doughty invader - and its propagatory genius. And I’ve had to do it without resort to chemical warfare - only organic methods permitted, which means mechanical and hand-to-hand fighting only! I wear eighteen-inch welding gloves to fight the bastards among the unmowable trees and shrubs. Where mowable, a first pass with gas-powered hedge trimmer followed by the Gravely’s 32-inch blade, all safety devices removed in order to mulch the carcasses.

This demonic plant grows so fast that I swear it can reach out and snag you on the way by - and beware its talons if you should need to take a refreshing bathroom break in the woods- blackberry will snag your soft butt and ruin your digestion just for sport.

And it has almost unlimited fecundity, with several methods of propagation. There is no point at all in just cutting the vertical stem - because for every climber there is also a creeper, which re-roots itself. The only sure way to beat it back is to uproot the buggers (all roots, both ends!) and hang them like trophies in the trees. And even then, every tiny root left in the ground will produce another stem in about five minutes.

And then there is blackberry’s diabolic seed - buried in the most delicious and tempting fruit, ambrosia to all species, which spread the seed hither and thither in their scat. I’ve been studying bear poop - earlier full of cherry stones, now chock full of blackberry seeds, processed and fertilized and strategically placed where bears like to poop - in prime berry dirt. I can’t really blame the bears - in fact, I like that they come around from time to time to eat berries. So that is, I guess, in the blackberry’s favor. Bear bait.

And the blackberry’s roots do hold a steep slope like nobody’s business. But once they take hold, they defend the slope against all comers, making a veritable hell of interlinked, overlapped, spikey stems that will not allow anything else to get a toehold. My theory is that in its native territory there is some large ruminant, a yak, or a buffalo, perhaps a large prehistoric beaver, which controls the blackberry - and which is decidedly not present anywhere in North America. SO it’s up to the same geniuses who brought the blackberry here (“Them’ll do great around here!”) to live with blackberry, to weather its thorns, and weed the forest of its satanic presence. Good luck with that.

About David Camp

Writer • Member since Jul 12, 2009

David Camp is a cpa (Canada'86; USA'96) and MBA (Schulich'88) who toiled thirty years in the corporate salt mines, counting beans and telling stories to the auditors and whatnot. Now [...]

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