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Himalayan Blackberry

Himalayan blackberry
(Rubus armeniacus)

Thicket-forming blackberry with angular arching stems that tip-root, leaves with white undersides, and large juicy blackberries.

Overview

Regulated areas of Rubus armeniacus
This species is Prohibited (Red counties)

Other names for this plant include:

  • Scientific names: Rubus discolor, R. procerus

Ecological threat:

  • This species was once introduced into the United States as a horticultural blackberry.
  • Prefers full sun; also shade tolerant, flooding and drought resistant, and adaptable to a variety of open and wooded habitats, wetlands, riparian areas, old fields and disturbed areas.
  • Forms dense, impenetrable thickets in natural habitats, dominating the forest understory by shading and crowding out native plants and impeding tree establishment.
  • Spreads via seed, vegetatively though rhizomes, and by tip-rooting (tips of canes root upon contact with the ground).
  • Birds readily eat and disperse the fruits, resulting in new infestations far from the initial source.
  • Very invasive and wide-spread across the western United States, as well as in the Northeast.

Classification in Wisconsin: Prohibited

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for Himalayan blackberry was based upon this literature review developed by the department.

Identification

Leaves & Stems: Stems are erect and arching, tips root when they come in contact with the soil. Stems are reddish in color and strongly angular with large, hooked thorns. Mature canes are glabrous (smooth, without hairs). Canes die back each year (root perennial) but remain standing through the winter. Leaves are palmately compound, usually with five leaflets, but sometimes three on younger growth. Leaflets are unequally, coarsely toothed, and round to broadly oblong with an abrupt tip at the apex. Leaves are green above with white-felt or silverish hue beneath. Undersides of the leaf margins have a row of thorns.

Flowers: Flowers are white - pinkish in color, five petaled with numerous stamens, and borne in large terminal clusters.

Fruits & Seeds: Fruits are dry and red when immature, turning into large, shiny berries, deep purple - black when mature in fall. Fruits are edible. Berries can persist on the shrubs into winter.

Roots: At the base of the parent plant, roots form a large nodular root mass with numerous white lateral roots. Stems tip-root, forming clusters of white spaghetti-like roots.

Similar species: Common high-bush blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis; native) can look very similar to Himalayan blackberry. They both contain very large, angular stems with large thorns. Himalayan blackberry can be distinguished from other blackberries by the following:

  • Undersides of the leaves on the invasive Himalayan blackberry are white-silver in color. This is often called “white felt”.  This is similar to the appearance of the undersides of raspberry leaves.  The native species is the same color on both sides of the leaves.
  • The majority of the native high-bush blackberries in Wisconsin have long translucent hairs on the lower surfaces of their leaves.  Himalayan blackberry is smooth with the white-grey felt and only a row of hooked thorns running along the underside of the leaf mid-vein.
  • Leaves of R. allegheniensis tend to be more oblong with an extended tip as opposed to round leaves with an abrupt tip.
  • Himalayan blackberry tip-roots while the native does not.  This means that the canes arch over and the tips root when they come into contact with the soil.  The native high-bush blackberry can grow very tall and even arch over, but the canes never tip-root into the soil.
  • New growth (leaf buds) on the native high-bush blackberry are somewhat fuzzy. 

Visit the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium to assist in identification of other native Rubus species.

Distribution

Known county distribution of Himalayan blackberry
Counties in WI where Himalayan blackberry has been reported (as of October 2013). Both vouchered and unvouchered reports included.

Do you have Himalayan blackberry in your county but it isn't shaded on the map? Send us a report.

Control

Mechanical:

  • Dig out plants with a shovel or pulaski. Be sure to remove the entire root mass. Although labor-intensive, this is the most-effective control option.
  • Mowing is effective control, reducing the spread of seeds, but will not kill the plants. Multiple years of cutting/mowing is needed to exhaust the root systems.
  • Cover infested areas with black landscape fabric for a minimum of two growing seasons.
  • Livestock grazing (mainly goats) is effective for removing vegetative mass, but this does not kill the plant.
  • Plowing infested fields can greatly reduce the density.

Chemical:

  • Foliar spray with glyphosate in fall. Apply before first frost.
  • Selective broadleaf herbicides (such as triclopyr, 2,4‐D and metsulfuron) are effective when infestations are in open, grassy areas. Follow label limits.

Resources

Sources for content:

  • King County Noxious Weed Control Program, Washington State.
  • California Invasive Plants Council.
  • Tirmenstein, D. 1989. Rubus discolor. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).

Links for More Information

Last revised: Friday May 31 2019