Monday, July 11, 2011

An Embarrassment of Ruby Riches

Wineberries (Rubus phoenicolasius) are extraordinarily abundant this year, and last weekend they were fully ripe.  A very short stop during a walk in the preserve produced many a handful.  Because they're sweet but don't have much flavor, they're best by the juicy handful.
Wineberries were intentionally introduced into the United States from (where else?) eastern Asia in 1890 as breeding stock for new Rubus cultivars.  The plant is still used today by berry breeders to add specific genes to berry varieties.  Wineberries have become naturalized in the Northeast and much of the Mid-Atlantic, where they prefer light shade at the edges of woodlands and along trails, though the plant will readily invade intact woods but may not produce fruits under deep shade.  The plant reproduces by seeds and by layering (when a long cane tip bends over and touches the ground, it develops roots).
The fruits (technically drupes) are sought after and dispersed by birds and mammals.

Other than the sweet fruit, perhaps the best attribute of the wineberry is its musical species name (i.e., phoenicolasius), which means "bearing purple hairs," a reference to the distinctive glandular red hairs and small spines on the canes that impart a deep magenta color when seen from a distance.


John Gray said...

never heard of wineberries

Scott said...

In terms of having a wild fruit to eat, it's a bit of a shame that you don't have access to wineberries, but in terms of aggressive invasive plants, thank your lucky stars that wineberry hasn't been introduced (or hasn't become naturalized) into Wales. The cost-benefit ratio is very heavily weighted toward cost when it comes to wineberries.