Have Dewberry, Will Travel

by Green Deane

in Beverage,Edible Raw,Fruits/Berries,Jam/Jelly,Medicinal,Plants,Vines

Dewberries are blackberries “lowly” cousins

Dewberries: Rubus Trivialis

Dewberries go far in the world, for a lowly vine. They can reach up to 15 feet long, one node root at a time.

Essentially a blackberry on the ground, Dewberries are a delicious addition to any foraging. Besides me and thee, the Dewberry is very popular with bees. The flowers attract honeybees, bumblebees, mason bees, leaf-cutting bees, cuckoo bees  and miner bees. The flowers also attract butterflies and skippers. The berries, actually drupes, are important summer food for many birds including red-headed woodpeckers, bluebirds, northern cardinals, and wild turkeys. The raccoon, fox squirrel, chipmunk and white-footed mouse eat the fruits. The cottontail rabbit and white-tailed deer browse on the leaves and stems. In fact, during lean years the Dewberry is an extremely important deer food, but then again, so too is poison ivy. Only humans and primates are allergic to poison ivy.

The Southern Dewberry (Rubus trivialis, ROU-bus triv-ee-AY-liss) differs some from the more widespread Common Dewberry (Rubus flagellaris.)  While both have prickles, the Southern Dewberry has bristles, the Common Dewberry does not. What’s the difference between prickles and bristles? It’s the amount of little spines you catch your finger on. A few are a prickles, a lot are bristles.) Also, the Southern Dewberry is evergreen, the Common Dewberry is not. The family the dewberry is in in some 250 genus strong, 26 of them in the southern United States. And the family has been around a long time according to fossil records, some 30 million years give or take a million or two the experts tell us. A whole lot of creatures have enjoyed them over the millennia.

Per usual, the botanical name for Dewberry, Rubus trivialis, is part Dead Latin and bastardized Greek. Rubus is a Roman word meaning red, the hair and or bristles on the stems often make them look reddish. Trivialis refers to the common occurrence of this plant. While it’s also the source of the English word “trivial” it really means “three ways” or crossroads. In Greek Tria is three and Via is force or way. Why “crossroads” means trivial is anyone’s guess but I would suppose crossroads are far less important than the main road, thus we have mainline and trivial.

Dewberries specifically are found Pennsylvania south to Florida and west to Colorado and Texas. Blackberries are found around the world. For example, the Dewberry is listed as an noxious weed in Tasmania. Imagine, a people so removed from nature that an abundance of delicious berries is a nuisance.   Hmmmm…. A 2007 study showed a blackberry leaf extract was good at reducing the formation of wrinkles. Seems to me the Tasmanians have the opportunity to be the most wrinkle-less folks on the planet. See my article on Blackberries.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION; Trailing vine, often roots at the nodes, twigs have reddish hairs; prickles small and scattered. Leaves alternate, variable in size and shape; leaflets elliptic to narrow-oval, twice as long as wide; hairless, toothy. Blossom has five petals, white to pink; pistils many, stamens numerous

TIME OF YEAR: Spring in Florida, June and July in northern climes. Dewberries ripen before other blackberries.

ENVIRONMENT: Edges of woods, roadsides, old fields. Likes most soils, can grow in full sun or some much shade.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Black fruit, off the vine or prepared like any fruit berry.  Leaves can be made into a tea, long used to treat diarrhea.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nan Roberts May 7, 2013 at 12:06

I bet the noxious weed part is from the plant taking over everything. Like Himalaya blackberries. The vines choke out everything else. I love the berries, but the plant is a problem.

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2 GlenB8man May 8, 2013 at 18:25

Any of the aforementioned are great to find around but i always assess the history of the site…. Too human? anybody dump used motoroil/even old iron filings around cotton gins could be too high in Ar for mass or regular eating…. then again how is a site to disperse(export) it otherwise, the decomposer level? Plants do absorb heavy metals(Cd,Ar Sb,Bi,Pb) when certain trace minerals (Fe,Mo,Mg,B,Cu…) are deficient,true qualitatively I’m sure given the right conditions too(pH?) I wonder about the local asian neighborhood=they grow in thier yard and do ALL thier own engine and body work OH yeah metals are sometimes cleaner nowadays…. done now ; }

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3 Shelby Day September 25, 2013 at 09:49

I recently cleared out tons of these invasive vines that were growing wild on my back fence. I have had a severe allergic reaction to this weed and the doctor’s can’t seem to provide me any relief as this is unusual. I have had a cortisone shot and have been on a round of steriods with little to no relief. If anyone has any idea on how I could cure myself from this itch, I would appreciate any and all comments. I’ve been told to go to a dermatologist. This stuff is clearly systemic now. Thank you in advance.

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4 Green Deane September 25, 2013 at 16:38

You might want to ask the question on the Green Deane Forum where we have a few herbalists.

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5 Tiffany Bell February 23, 2014 at 14:44

This looks very similar to what we have in our front beds. However, I have never seen any blooms or fruit. Could it be something else?

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