Imagine you are walking along a forest trail, minding your own business, when all of a sudden you are snagged by a long and thorny vine! There’s a good chance it’s the Himalayan Blackberry, an invasive species brought to North America for its fruit from Armenia and North Iran. This creeping perennial has long, thick, woody stems – known as canes – that range in diameter. They can size from that of a finger all the way to a wrist, and have thorns that are sharp and stiff protrusions. The leaves form leaflet groups of 3-5 individual leaves and branch off of the canes. Flowers and fruit on this blackberry are very like those of native species. The flowers range in hue from white to pink, have 5 petals, and are about 1” in diameter. The fruit of the blackberry is a dark purple or black color.
While delicious, the Himalayan blackberry can take over wherever it grows; its canes arch over and under each other, forming an impenetrable bush. Additionally, whenever a stem tip touches the ground, a new “daughter” plant can take root. Once the blackberry starts spreading, it can stop native vegetation growth. This results in a habitat that is unable to house different species and that has a very low biodiversity.
The Trailing Blackberry is native to North America, and looks like the Himalayan at first glance. They both have long vines with thorns, white or pink flowers, and leaves in groups. However, the stems of the trailing blackberry are much thinner, and the thorns aren’t as stiff. The Trailing Blackberry isn’t creeping either, so it’s found along the ground. Because of this, it coexists with other plant life rather than completely taking over an ecosystem, which is the opposite of the Himalayan. Also in contrast with the invasive blackberry, the native species has leaflets with only three leaves, and they are slimmer in shape instead of circular.
Removal of the Himalayan Blackberry is very difficult. Effective ways include mowing off the canes and removing the root ball. A combination of these methods means the plant is much more likely to die and stay away. Sometimes one method might not work, but another may. Disposing of the blackberry takes time and dedication.
If you have this invasive berry growing and want it gone, you could also try burning the whole bush! (NOTE: Working with flammable materials and fire should only be done by those who have professional experience in controlling it!) The burning method is most effective with small patches of blackberries; if they cover a larger area, try the other two listed above. Goats can also be effective Himalayan blackberry eradicators, as they will eat the entire plant from the leaves to the canes.
If you don’t want to get rid of your blackberry, make sure that you are controlling its spread. This can happen through trimming the canes or covering the plant with a tarp during winter months. And next time you are out walking and you come across a huge blackberry bush, remember that it’s probably invasive and then take a minute to stop and have a delicious snack! Want to help with invasive Himalayan blackberry removal at Columbia Springs? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
About the Author: Hailey Gerdts is a high school senior participating in the American Fisheries Society’s Hutton Internship Program at Columbia Springs for the summer. She has a passion for environmental conservation and takes a special interest in marine mammals, though she is fascinated with and loves all things outdoors! She grew up hunting, fishing, and camping with friends and family all over the PNW. When she isn’t working, you can find Hailey playing piano, reading a good book, or hanging out with her cats.