What's that you say? Those are only blackberries in your bucket? You and the family come out, avoid the thorns as best you can, and pick fruits from these wild brambles every year in July and August just to make that tasty, home-made, blackberry jam. I'll bet you didn't realize that you were picking the fruits of an illegal alien. But don't worry, these plants are naturalized in the United States now.

This plant, commonly called the Himalayan Blackberry, has about as many botanical names as the number of druplets in a fruit. The preferred name, botanically speaking is Rubus armeniacus Focke, although it has been known as R. procerus Muller, R. praecox Bertol., R. grabowskii Weihe ex Gunther et al., or R. discolor Weihe & Nees. Most botanists consider it to be a member of the "Fruticosus group" of European blackberries. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) lists Rubus fruticosus L. as a noxious weed. This "species" cannot be legally brought into the U.S. from foreign countries without a permit. However, this regulation is a little too late. In 1885 Luther Burbank introduced a cultivar of this species under the name "Himalaya Giant." He chose this name because he thought that the seed was originally of Asian origin. Other gardeners brought in blackberry plants of this species that Theodor Reimers of Hamburg, Germany introduced. These plants quickly escaped from the gardens with the help of birds and animals, who dearly love to eat the fruit. The animals dispersed, scarified (broke open the hard seed-coat in their stomachs), and fertilized the seed. This species is now established, or "naturalized," along the west coast from British Columbia to California. It particularly likes its "new" home in the Pacific Northwest.

The plant has a pretty rose-like flower with simple white petals. It blooms from mid to late June in the Corvallis, Oregon vicinity. The leaves have from three to five leaflets and the plant is armed with stout, recurved prickles, i.e., thorns, which can be present on stems, petioles and the undersides of leaves. The fruit ripen in late July and August, and tend to be smaller than the cultivated types that are available from local nurseries. The quality is acceptable for canning and preserving.

K. Hummer, 1 July 1996