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B is for Brambles - Like it or Not!

European blackberry flowers

Flowering European blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) © Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft.,

Oh! Am I reminding you, my volunteer buddies, about the beast from when time began?

Like it or not, the bramble has been one of the biggest challenges on our sites. You have to have a check list in your head before approaching this unruly plant:

  • Gloves that can withstand being shredded…tick

  • Shears sharper than a guillotine…tick

  • A range of expletives at the ready…tick

  • Tea and cake within grabbing distance…tick

  • Other volunteers to mop your furrowed brow…double tick


Brambles encroaching on a house and jasmine plant © Alex Ainge, 2021

Sadly, we are losing the ability to celebrate what this plant has to offer. After all, who doesn’t love a blackberry pie made from the freshly picked fruits? The negative folklore has not helped the bramble. In medieval times, people planted brambles on graves to stop the dead from coming out and prevent the devil from getting in!

So aside from its dark past, we must marvel at what the bramble contributes to planet earth. Robins, Wrens, Thrushes, Blackbirds, Warblers and Finches will nest in bramble and small mammals, like the Hedgehog and Dormouse, use it for protection from predators. Moths, such as Buff Arches, Peach Blossom and Fox moths, lay their eggs on bramble as it is their larval foodplant. Brambles also provide an important source of nectar for Brimstone and Speckled Wood butterflies and fruits for Song Thrushes and Yellowhammers.

Speckled wood butterfly resting on long grass

Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria) butterfly © Nicola Timney, 2018

We must remember that brambles have been here for a very long time, even as long as 8000 years ago, when bramble seeds were found in the stomach of a Neolithic man in Essex.

So I salute you, dear volunteer, for all the shearing, lopping and tugging of this amazing plant and I hope some of you will join me as we tackle the next bramble maze at our Tree Nursery at West Wittering allotments. I will bring LOTS of tea and cake…I promise!!!!!


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