Weedy Wednesday - Bramble
This week's plant in our Wednesday Weed series is the bramble. Thorny, strong growing, but bears delicious fruit.
In this weekly series, we take a quick look at common garden weeds. How they grow, what benefits they bring to the garden, and how to manage them. Organic growers recognise the importance of these native plants. Insects and birds need the flowers and seeds – and gardeners, cooks and herbalists can harvest some nutrient rich foliage.
We hope that this snap-shot view of bindweed, dandelion, nettle, bramble, thistle, goosegrass, plantain, fat hen, dock and yes, even ground elder, will help you to live with them. We also give advice on how to compost weeds. You may not love them, but you certainly won't be tempted to reach for the toxic weed-killer.
Bramble Rubus fruticosus
What: There are nearly as many different bramble species as there are days in the year. Over 300 different perennials with woody, thorny stems and vigorous rooting systems. Most will flower and provide fruit – the common blackberry is a bramble.
Habit: The bramble has long stems which bear flowers and fruit in their second year. Reproduction can be by seed – each blackberry fruit has about 20 seeds – but much of the seed is non-viable and doesn’t germinate until the second year after shedding. Interestingly, those eaten by birds are often more successful in germination. More common is rooting via stem tips – which elongate rapidly to reach and penetrate the soil surface, creating new roots from which grow suckers. Brambles can also grow from fragments of roots.
Benefits: The flowers are a source of pollen which is particularly attractive to butterflies and hoverflies. The fruits are enjoyed by birds, animals and humans. The leaves can be used to treat stomach problems and diarrhoea. (If you have a captive stick insect it will love to eat the leaves.) The roots provide a yellow dye.
Control: The only way to clear brambles is by digging out the roots. This is best done when the soil is moist and forgiving. Mowing over them will keep stems short, but it will encourage the formation of suckers from the lateral roots.