Rubus spp

Brambles, Berries, Boysenberry, Youngberry, Raspberry, Blackberry


Varieties are derived from Europe and North America. There are also native varieties in Australia and Asia.


The most suitable brambles for the Perth area are boysenberries and youngberries. Raspberries and other Rubus species are more suitable for cooler climates such as the South West. There are also some blackberry varieties such as Murrindindi (thornless) and karaka berry which will grow and yield well in Perth.

Plant Description

Brambles include blackberries and crosses with other Rubus species such as raspberries. There are 12 subgenera and many hybrids. The precise number of named species is unknown, but is somewhere between 400 and 750. Stems are usually thorny and may have trailing stems up to 7m long. There are some thornless cultivars.


Rosaceae Family, which includes stone fruit, pip fruit, loquats, and many others.


Grow in well-drained soil. Mulch around the bushes. Good irrigation is needed, especially in summer.


Propagation is straightforward, so plants can easily be bulked up. Stems that touch the soil will root and can be removed for planting. Nursery plants are cheap.


Brambles may include named blackberries, boysenberries, loganberries, keriberries, marion berries, silvan berries, tayberries and youngberries. Boysenberries and youngberries are raspberry/blackberry crosses, but the boysenberry has an additional loganberry parentage and the youngberry has an additional dewberry parentage. Youngberries are higher yielding. The fruit is shinier, lighter and more elongated, with less flavour than boysenberries. Fruit size is 30-35mm long by 15mm wide and is smaller than boysenberries (up to 35-40 cm long by 20-25cm wide)

Flowering and Pollination

The flowers are borne in spring. Often white in colour, some are pink. Pollinated by insects, they readily set fruit.


Plant in full sun at 0.6 to 1.0m apart next to a wall or fence. A wire trellis may be attached to the wall or fence to support the stems. Much pruning and training is needed from January to June. Shoots will grow rapidly and may grow downwards where they will root in the soil. They need to be trained twice weekly to fill bare spaces on the wall. New growth in spring and summer may trail along the ground. Use a complete NPK fertiliser every 2 months in the warmer months from September onwards. Mulch around the plants.

Wind Tolerance



Weak growth should be removed. In February, the old canes (2 or 3 years old) should be removed. The trailing new growth should be picked up and the shoots should be fixed and trained to the wires on the wall or fence.

Suckers should be removed to prevent spread into surrounding garden beds. A plastic barrier 60cm deep can help minimise this problem.

The Fruit

Technically, the fruits are not berries, but an aggregate of drupelets. Most ripen in late spring or summer. The soft, juicy, fruits are usually purple or black but can also range from white, through yellow to red. There are many edible seeds.

Fruit Production and Harvesting

Boysenberries and youngberries will fruit on old wood from November to December in Perth. Youngberries commence cropping slightly before the boysenberries. A plant may yield 1.5 to 2kg per season and fruit may need to be picked daily.

Fruit Uses

Berries contain vitamin C, fibre, carbohydrates and potassium. They have a short shelf life. Store at 0 to 5°C in a refrigerator. Fruit can be eaten fresh, frozen for later dessert use or also used in ice creams, juices, jams, jellies and tarts.

Pests and Diseases

There are few problems in the Perth area, but scale insects on the stems may need to be controlled. Black spots on the leaves may be controlled with mancozeb.


Rubus are expensive in shops, as they are highly perishable and labour costs for fruit picking are high for commercial growers. They need much labour and good management. Blackberries in particular are notoriously weedy and invasive, and need to be controlled. Plants are thorny and suckers will be a problem unless controlled, but the gardener is rewarded with excellent fruit quality. They are also useful for covering walls and fences. Mulberries are of similar type, but brambles have the advantage of never needing ladders.

More Information

Berries are berry good for you

To minimise the onset of chronic diseases in aging populations, health authorities worldwide recommend we eat more fruit and vegetables and less animal-based foods. Plant-based diets are low in calories and saturated fats with good supplies of carbohydrate, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They also have no cholesterol and most importantly are rich sources of bio-active phytochemicals that have benefits beyond basic nutrition. These latter substances are usually produced by plants as secondary metabolites to help in their defence against predator and pathogen attack. Chemically they’re mostly polyphenols, grouped into several classes such as flavonoids (eg anthocyanins, flavones and flavonols), stilbenes, phenolic acids and tannins, and many have strong antioxidant activity. There are thousands of them and in numerous laboratory, animal and human studies they’ve been found to be effective agents in preventing or ameliorating cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and mental degenerative diseases amongst others.

An important process by which these diseases develop concerns the production of reactive oxygen species associated with normal physiological activities. When these pro-oxidative states are not kept in check by the body’s own antioxidants and those supplied externally from the diet, damage can occur over time. Recent research indicates that adequate intake of foods with phytochemicals high in antioxidants is a principal and significant means by which the above-mentioned diseases can be positively impacted. But as an aside it should be realised that antioxidant activity is not the only positive health attribute of plant phytochemicals; different fruits have widely varying mixtures of these chemicals with a multitude of activities and these are thought to interact positively in several ways. Focussing just on antioxidant activity as a major player in this story, berry fruit have on average 4, 10 and 40 times the activity of other fruits, vegetables and cereals respectively. Much of this is due to anthocyanins, which give them their characteristically strong orange, red and purple colours. Many hundreds of anthocyanins have so far been identified.

The following is a summary of work published in Nutrition Reviews (2010, 68, 168-177) where the case for including a hearty amount of berry fruit in your regular balanced diet is made.

Berries are a good source of polyphenols, especially anthocyanins, micronutrients, and fibre. In epidemiological and clinical studies these constituents have been associated with improved cardiovascular risk profiles. Human intervention studies using chokeberries, cranberries, blueberries, and strawberries (either fresh, or as juice, or freeze-dried), or purified anthocyanin extracts have demonstrated significant improvements in LDL-cholesterol oxidation (a precursor to blood vessel adhesion and atherosclerosis), lipid peroxidation, total plasma antioxidant capacity, dyslipidemia (high LDL-cholesterol and/or fats) and glucose metabolism. Benefits were seen in healthy subjects and in those with existing metabolic risk factors. Underlying mechanisms for these beneficial effects are believed to include up-regulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (increasing production of nitric oxide which favourably modulates blood pressure and blood vessel function), decreased activities of carbohydrate digestive enzymes, decreased oxidative stress, and inhibition of inflammatory gene expression and foam cell formation (scavenger cells containing numerous cholesterol droplets). Though limited, these data support the recommendation of berries as an essential fruit group in a heart-healthy diet.

This study by US researchers refers to several berry fruits from colder climates not readily available to us, but we can nevertheless take on board the findings for ones we do know well, such as strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries/ raspberries and their many hybrids. Benefits extend beyond the cardiovascular disease largely addressed in the above study. For example in a recent Finnish study on the effects of including fruit, berries and vegetables in the diet, it was found that those in the top 25% of consumption had a reduced chance of developing diabetes after allowing for several other risk factors such as obesity, family history etc. Berries are usually eaten in much smaller quantities than other fruit and vegetables, yet when the effects of berries were considered separately from the other two in this comparatively small study, it was found that they alone were responsible for a 35% reduction in incidence and the other fruits and vegetables had no significant effect.

Another feature to consider with berries is the common practice of processing them into jams, jellies and the like. Unfortunately, these products may contain up to 50% added sugar to achieve good storage properties. Consumption then results in a rapid and unwanted extra increase in blood glucose and insulin which can be deleterious to health in the long term (eg predisposing to type 2 diabetes). The only saving grace here is that the berry polyphenols do have an ameliorating effect, but the better pathway to adopt is to either eat them fresh, freeze as purees, dry etc rather than add all that nutritionally-empty sugar to your diet. Collectively we’re all eating too much as it is, and it’s compromising the nutritional value of the berries which start off with such excellent credentials. And to top it all off, the antioxidant activity in the fresh fruit generally declines in proportion to any heat (time and temperature) processing steps.