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, about 1/2 in. across, on slender, bristly pedicels, in a loose cluster. Calyx deeply 5-parted, persistent in fruit;
5 erect, short-lived petals, about the length of the sepals; stamens numerous; carpels numerous, inserted on a convex spongy receptacle, and ripening into drupelets. Stem: 3 to
6 ft. high, shrubby, densely covered with bristles; older, woody stems with rigid, hooked prickles. Leaves: Compounded of 3 to 5 ovate, pointed, and irregularly saw-edged leaflets, downy beneath, on bristly petioles. Fruit: A light red, watery, tender, high-flavored, edible berry; ripe July - September.
Preferred Habitat - Dry soil, rocky hillsides, fence-rows, hedges. Flowering Season - May - July.
Distribution - Labrador to North Carolina, also in Rocky Mountain region.
Who but the bees and such small visitors care about the raspberry blossoms? Notwithstanding the nectar secreted in a fleshy ring for their benefit, comparatively few insects enter the flowers, whose small, erect petals imply no hospitable welcome. Occasionally a visitor laden with pollen from another plant alights in the centre of a blossom, and leaves some on the stigmas in bending his head down between them and the stamens to reach the refreshment; but inasmuch as the erect petals allow no room for the stamens to spread out and away from the stigmas, it follows that self-fertilization very commonly occurs.
Of course, men and children, bears and birds, are vastly more interested in the delicious berries; men for the reason that several excellent market varieties, some white or pale red, the Cuthbert and Hansall berries among others, owe their origin to this hardy native. Many superior sorts derived from its European counterpart (R. Idaeus) cannot well endure our rigorous northern climate. As in the case of most berry-bearing species, the raspberry depends upon the birds to drop its undigested seeds over the country, that new colonies may arise under freer conditions. Indeed, one of the best places for the budding ornithologist to take opera-glasses and note-book is to a raspberry patch early in the morning.
The Black Raspberry, Black Cap or Scotch Cap or Thimble-berry (R. occidentalis), common in such situations as the red raspberry chooses, but especially in burned-over districts from Virginia northward and westward, has very long, smooth, cane-like stems, often bending low until they root again at the tips. These are only sparingly armed with small, hooked prickles, no bristles. The flowers, which are similar to the preceding, but clustered more compactly, are sparingly visited by insects; nevertheless when self-fertilized, as they usually are, abundant purplish-black berries, hollow like a thimble where they drop from the spongy receptacle, ripen in July. Numerous garden hybrids have been derived from this prolific species also. Indeed its offspring are the easiest raspberries to grow, since they form new plants at the tips of the branches, yet do not weaken themselves with suckers, and so, even without care, yield immense crops. One need not stir many feet around a good raspberry patch to enjoy a Transcendental feast.