Himalayan blackberry and evergreen blackberry
Rubus armeniacus (syn. Rubus discolor) and Rubus laciniatus
Himalayan and evergreen blackberry are European species of blackberry that are highly invasive and difficult to control. Originally introduced for fruit production, they are now naturalized and widespread throughout the Pacific Northwest. They are easy to spot by their large, vigorous, thicket-forming growth and sharp spines covering the stems.
Legal status in King County, Washington
These two species of European blackberry are Class C noxious weeds on the Washington State Noxious Weed List, first listed in 2009. Both species are on the non-regulated noxious weed list in King County. Property owners are not required to control these species.
Control of Himalayan blackberry and evergreen blackberry is not required because the species are widespread throughout King County and the rest of Western Washington. However, control is recommended in protected wilderness areas and in natural lands that are being restored to native vegetation because of the invasiveness of these species.
Identification (see below for additional photos)
- Robust, thicket forming shrub
- Stout, arching canes with large stiff thorns
- Up to 15 feet tall; canes to 40 feet long
- Small, white to pinkish flowers with five petals
- Large, black berries (edible and tasty!)
- Himalayan blackberry leaves are palmately compound with large, rounded to oblong, toothed leaflets usually in groups of 5 on main stems
- Evergreen blackberry (also known as cut-leaf blackberry) has deeply incised leaflets
- Trailing stems usually have leaflets in groups of three
- Blackberry canes root at the tips, creating daughter plants
- Main plants have large, deep, woody root balls that sprout at nodes
- Can be distinguished from the native trailing blackberry (Rubus ursinus) by its tall, arching reddish-brown canes, much more robust plants, rounder leaflets (or deeply incised leaflets for evergreen blackberry), and larger fruits and flowers
Habitat and impact
These invasive blackberry species out-compete native understory vegetation and prevent the establishment of native trees that require sun for germination such as Pacific Madrona, Douglas Fir and Western White Pine. Dense, impenetrable blackberry thickets can block access of larger wildlife to water and other resources (not to mention causing problems for people trying to enjoy parks and natural areas).
Himalayan and evergreen blackberry are abundant along rivers and wetland edges in King County, often blocking access to these areas. In addition, blackberry lacks the deep, bank stabilizing roots of native wetland shrubs and trees. Riversides covered with blackberry often indicate degraded conditions and may mask eroding banks.
In an invasive weed survey of the relatively pristine Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley, Himalayan and evergreen blackberry covered more area than all of the other invasive species combined. Similarly, in EarthCorps' Seattle Urban Nature’s plant inventory of Seattle’s public forests, Himalayan and evergreen blackberry were found to be the most invasive species in Seattle's forests.
Growth and reproduction
- Blackberry reproduces by seed and vegetatively by rooting at stem tips and sprouting from root buds
- Plants begin flowering in spring with fruit ripening in midsummer to early August
- Both types of blackberry are somewhat evergreen in this area, although Himalayan blackberry will die back with colder temperatures
- Daughter plants form where canes touch ground
- Seeds remain viable in the soil for several years
- Fruiting stems generally die back at the end of the season, but non-fruiting stems can persist for several years before producing fruit
Blackberry can be controlled by digging, mowing, herbicide, plowing, and/or livestock grazing (especially goats). Removal of top growth by mowing, cutting or grazing with goats will eventually kill blackberry if done regularly and over several years. Cutting followed by digging up root crowns is much more effective than cutting alone. Blackberry can be controlled with herbicides, but product labels should be followed carefully - different products need to be used at different times and may pose different risks to the user and the environment.
Make sure to have a long-term plan to ensure success, protect native and beneficial species while doing the control, and start in the least infested areas first and then move into the more heavily infested areas.
Additional information on Himalayan and evergreen blackberry
What to do if you find this plant in King County, Washington
Because these species of blackberry are so widespread, property owners are not required to control them and we are not generally tracking infestations. We can provide advice on how to control blackberry, but there is generally no requirement to do so, unless the city or homeowners association requires it. We are tracking locations of blackberry in some wilderness areas as part of the Upper Snoqualmie Invasive Weed Control Project and could always use more Weed Watchers for this effort.
Himalayan and evergreen blackberry photos - click for larger images