This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flowers - White, 1 in. or less across, in terminal raceme-like clusters. Calyx deeply 5-parted, persistent; 5 large petals; stamens and carpels numerous, the latter inserted on a pulpy receptacle. Stem: 3 to 10 ft. high, woody, furrowed, curved, armed with stout, recurved prickles. Leaves: Compounded of 3 to 5 ovate, saw-edged leaflets, the end one stalked, all hairy beneath. Fruit: Firmly attached to the receptacle; nearly black, oblong juicy berries 1 in. long or less, hanging in clusters. Ripe, July - August.
Preferred Habiitat - Dry soil, thickets, fence-rows, old fields, waysides. Low altitudes.
Flotvering Season - May - June.
Distribution - New England to Florida, and far westward.
"There was a man of our town, And he was wondrous wise, He jumped into a bramble bush " If we must have poetical associations for every flower, Mother Goose furnishes several.
But for the practical mind this plant's chief interest lies in the fact that from its wild varieties the famous Lawton and Kitta-tinny blackberries have been derived. The late Peter Henderson used to tell how the former came to be introduced. A certain Mr. Secor found an unusually fine blackberry growing wild in a hedge at New Rochelle, New York, and removed it to his garden, where it increased apace. But not even for a gift could he induce a neighbor to relieve him of the superfluous bushes, so little esteemed were blackberries in his day. However, a shrewd lawyer named Lawton at length took hold of it, exhibited the fruit, advertised it cleverly, and succeeded in pocketing a snug little fortune from the sale of the prolific plants. Another fine variety of the common wild blackberry, which was discovered by a clergyman at the edge of the woods on the Kittatinny Mountains in New Jersey, has produced fruit under skilled cultivation that still remains the best of its class. When clusters of blossoms and fruit in various stages of green, red, and black hang on the same bush, few ornaments in Nature's garden are more decorative.
Because bramble flowers show greater executive ability than the raspberries do, they flaunt much larger petals, and spread them out flat to attract insect workers as well as to make room for the stamens to spread away from the stigmas - an arrangement which gives freer access to the nectar secreted in a fleshy ring at the base. Heavy bumblebees, which require a firm support, naturally alight in the centre, just as they do in the wild roses (p. 98), and deposit on the early maturing stigmas some imported pollen. They may therefore be regarded as the truest benefactors, and it will be noticed that for their special benefit the nectar is rather deeply concealed, where short-tongued insects cannot rob them of it. Small bees, which come only to gather pollen from first the outer and then the inner rows of stamens, and a long list of other light-weight visitors, too often alight on the petals to effect cross-fertilization regularly, but they usually self-fertilize the blossoms. Competition between these flowers and the next is fierce, for their seasons overlap.
The Dewberry or Low Running Blackberry (R. Canadensis), that trails its woody stem by the dusty roadside, in dry fields, and on sterile, rocky hillsides, calls forth maledictions from the bare-footed farmer's boy, except during June and July, when its prickles are freely forgiven it in consideration of the delicious, black, seedy berries it bears. He is the last one in the world to confuse this vine with the Swamp Blackberry (R. hispidus), a smaller flowered runner, slender and weakly prickly as to its stem, and insignificant and sour as to its fruit. Its greatest charm is when we come upon it in some low meadow in winter, when its still persistent, shining, large leaves, that have taken on rich autumnal reds, glow among the dry, dead weeds and grasses.