Thanks to our local herbalist Annie Fox and the herbalism walks our local parks host, I now know about the wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius).
Running by a steep cliff overtaken by plants of all shapes and sizes, I’m reached out to by the thorny arms of the wineberry. Reddish-brown and so thorn-covered as to look like a medieval weapon, most of the year the wineberry looks like nature’s “Keep Out” sign. But I know it will give precious mini-raspberries come the hottest days of summer, and so when I pass by post-jog I make sure to smile back at the plant. It waves back in the wind.
And then, yesterday, finally – I saw berries!
⚠️ Please DO NOT eat any part of a plant if you are not 100% sure what that plant is. Contact a local herbalist/ecologist/etc. if you are unsure. ⚠️
As a lovely post-run snack, I snagged a wineberry. Delicious! I’d say they have the flavor of a muted raspberry. They’re also smaller than your average raspberry, and less juicy. But tasty and lovely just the same.
R. phoenicolasius is not native to the northeastern United States, but you’ll find it quite often here – “from New England and eastern Canada south to North Carolina and west to Michigan and Tennessee,” according to invasive.org.
Let’s make an important distinction here. In common parlance, an invasive species is one that humans have brought to a new habitat. Generally, if a species outcompetes other species to a point near extinction, or does something else disastrous to the original ecology, it remains entitled an “invasive” species. However, some invasive species, like common plantain, play nice with native plants and come to be called naturalized species. At least some folks consider the wineberry in this second category.
Interestingly, it’s said that the wineberry plant is a voracious grower endangering other nearby plants – which I’m sure is true. However the way it grows in my local park, it just seems so in-tune with the rest of the landscape! It reaches out among the leaves and trunks of other plants as if to say “hello” and offer up tasty treats.
Interested to learn more about the wineberry? Check out the fact sheet below. Or, if you can, get out and meet some wineberry plants yourself!