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Black raspberry is a perennial shrub in the rose family. The flowers of black raspberry are not very showy but the fruit has an excellent flavour and is rather colourful. This shrub produces arching canes, up to 2 metres (6') long, that usually live for two years. The first year, they may root at the tip if they touch ground. There is little branching. The canes are green initially, then develop a purplish-red colour, usually with a white bloom, and hooked prickles. The genus name Rubus is the Latin name for bramble and occidentalis refers to western, that is, the black raspberry of the western world. This is native to the United States and Canada. This can be easily confused with the blackberry. Blackberry stems have ridges and angles while the black raspberry stems are smoothly round-shaped, nearly circular in diametre. Also, the receptacle is removed from the raspberry when picked whereas the blackberry, the receptable is part of the fruit.
There is no trunk or bark only leaf stalks. These are mostly smooth with a few straight to recurved barbs (or prickles). At the base of the compound leaf stalk is a pair of stipules about 1/2 cm (1/4") long. Stems can get to up to over 3 metres long (9'), covered with a waxy bloom and scattered, very sharp prickles that are straight to slightly curved or angled downward. Stems arch and root at the tips. New canes are light green to blue-green, second year canes (floricanes) produce the flowering branches and are often reddish, the canes dying before the third year but new canes emerging from the rooted tips.
There are no branches or twigs, only leaf stalks.
Black raspberry bushes are not that tall as the stems arch. They can arch at about 1 metre (3') in height.
Leaves are alternate and compound are are typically trifoliate, rarely 5 leaves. Leaflets are egg-shaped to elliptic, mostly widest below the middle, the center leaflet long stalked, the lateral leaflets stalkless and occasionally shallowly lobed, typically 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4") long, 3 to 7cm (1¼ to 3") wide, sometimes larger, with a long taper to a slender, pointed tip and rounded to heart-shaped at the base. Edges are coarsely double-toothed, upper surface is medium to dark green, mostly smooth, the lower surface silvery and densely hairy.
Clusters of 5 to 15 flowers at tips of lateral branches on 1-year-old stems. Flowers are white, about 1cm (1/2") across with 5 oblong to narrowly spatula-shaped petals that are initially erect, becoming ascending to widely spreading. In the center is a cluster of many styles surrounded by a ring of numerous white stamens. Alternating with the petals are 5 sepals, broadly triangular tapered to a long, tail-like tip, longer than the petals, widely spreading to curved downward, pale green to gray-green, the outer surface covered in soft, non-glandular hairs. Flower stalks are hairless to short-hairy, with scattered broad-based, cat-claw-like prickles.
The fruit is round cluster, about half a centimetre (1/2") in diameter of fleshy druplets. When ripe is becomes purplish-black when ripe. They tend to need a slight pull to free it from the receptacle.
Black raspberries like part shade, with some sun (open woods) and woodland edges. It prefers moist to dry soil. Many people cultivate this shrub in their gardens.
The ripe flavourful fruit and leaves are edible.
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