As regular readers of this blog will be aware, Rambling Ratz is no gardener and the grounds of Ratz’ Hall are pretty much left to fend for themselves. A plant that thrives in such conditions is Rubus fruticosa, otherwise known as the blackberry, briar or bramble.
Bramble or briar can refer to any thicket of thorny shrubbery but in this instance it shall mean the blackberry bush. There has been an abundance of blossoms on the brambles this summer which has attracted honey bees, bumblebees and hoverflies. It is also a useful food source for various species of Lepidoptera in their adult and larval states.
As the blossoms die so the green fruits start to appear, but only if the flower has been pollinated by an insect. These will eventually turn red then a very dark purple, looking black, hence their name blackberries. These fruits are enjoyed by rodents, blackbirds and humans. A Danish bog body, known as the “Haraldskær Woman” was dated to 490BCE. Forensic examination showed that her stomach contained millet and blackberries, indicating that our early Iron Age ancestors enjoyed blackberry foraging also. It is a popular fruit for making jams, jellies and crumbles with. There are some tasty recipes here and here. They are high in fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. A word of warning, they should not be harvested after Old Michaelmas Day as the Devil does something revolting to them after that date (10th October), see this previous blog post here for further details.
Of course, another peril of blackberry picking is the wretched thorns that grip and tear at your flesh as you delve into the middle of the briar patch, where the biggest, juiciest fruits dangle temptingly. Mr Aesop of fable fame also noted this feature:
A FOX was mounting a hedge when he lost his footing and caught
hold of a Bramble to save himself. Having pricked and grievously
tom the soles of his feet, he accused the Bramble because, when
he had fled to her for assistance, she had used him worse than
the hedge itself. The Bramble, interrupting him, said, “But you
really must have been out of your senses to fasten yourself on
me, who am myself always accustomed to fasten upon others.”
As with roses, see my previous post here, the thorns are not true thorns, but prickles. A thorny issue indeed.
Once the blossoms had faded and the bramble patch was of no more use to our poor beleaguered bees drastic action was taken. Most of the brambles, especially the new, fruitless stems were cut down. Further proof that the bramble patch is a haven for insects, a baby robin flitted about catching all of the little aphids and other clouds of small insects being kicked up by the disturbance.