Rubus occidentalis
Rubus occidentalis is a species of Rubus
Rubus is a large genus of flowering plants in the rose family, Rosaceae, subfamily Rosoideae. Raspberries, blackberries, and dewberries are common, widely distributed members of the genus. Most of these plants have woody stems with prickles like roses; spines, bristles, and gland-tipped hairs are...

native to eastern North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

. Its common name
Common name
A common name of a taxon or organism is a name in general use within a community; it is often contrasted with the scientific name for the same organism...

 black raspberry
Black raspberry
Black raspberry is a common name for three species of the genus Rubus:*Rubus leucodermis, native to western North America*Rubus occidentalis, native to eastern North America, the species that is commercially harvested, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, from developed cultivars.*Rubus coreanus,...

is shared with the closely related western American species Rubus leucodermis
Rubus leucodermis
Rubus leucodermis is a species of Rubus native to western North America, from British Columbia, Canada south to California, New Mexico and Mexico...

. Other names occasionally used include wild black raspberry, black caps, black cap raspberry, thimbleberry, and scotch cap.

Rubus occidentalis is a deciduous
Deciduous means "falling off at maturity" or "tending to fall off", and is typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally, and to the shedding of other plant structures such as petals after flowering or fruit when ripe...

A shrub or bush is distinguished from a tree by its multiple stems and shorter height, usually under 5–6 m tall. A large number of plants may become either shrubs or trees, depending on the growing conditions they experience...

 growing to 2–3 m tall, with prickly
Thorns, spines, and prickles
In botanical morphology, thorns, spines, and prickles are hard structures with sharp, or at least pointed, ends. In spite of this common feature, they differ in their growth and development on the plant; they are modified versions of different plant organs, stems, stipules, leaf veins, or hairs...

 shoots. The leaves
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 are pinnate
Leaf shape
In botany, leaf shape is characterised with the following terms :* Acicular : Slender and pointed, needle-like* Acuminate : Tapering to a long point...

, with five leaflets on leaves strong-growing stems in their first year, and three leaflets on leaves on flowering branchlets. The flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s are distinct in having long, slender sepal
A sepal is a part of the flower of angiosperms . Collectively the sepals form the calyx, which is the outermost whorl of parts that form a flower. Usually green, sepals have the typical function of protecting the petals when the flower is in bud...

s 6–8 mm long, more than twice as long as the petal
Petals are modified leaves that surround the reproductive parts of flowers. They often are brightly colored or unusually shaped to attract pollinators. Together, all of the petals of a flower are called a corolla. Petals are usually accompanied by another set of special leaves called sepals lying...

s. The round-shaped fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

 is a 12–15 mm diameter aggregation of drupe
In botany, a drupe is a fruit in which an outer fleshy part surrounds a shell of hardened endocarp with a seed inside. These fruits develop from a single carpel, and mostly from flowers with superior ovaries...

lets; it is edible, and has a high content of anthocyanin
Anthocyanins are water-soluble vacuolar pigments that may appear red, purple, or blue according to pH...

s and ellagic acid
Ellagic acid
Ellagic acid is a natural phenol antioxidant found in numerous fruits and vegetables including blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, walnuts, pecans, pomegranates, wolfberry and other plant foods...


Black raspberries are high in anthocyanins. This has led to their being very useful as natural dye
A dye is a colored substance that has an affinity to the substrate to which it is being applied. The dye is generally applied in an aqueous solution, and requires a mordant to improve the fastness of the dye on the fiber....

s and, since anthocyanins are powerful antioxidant
An antioxidant is a molecule capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons or hydrogen from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals. In turn, these radicals can start chain reactions. When...

s, to a great deal of interest in them for their potential nutraceutical
Nutraceutical, a portmanteau of the words “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical”, is a food or food product that reportedly provides health and medical benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease. Health Canada defines the term as "a product isolated or purified from foods that is...

 value. Extensive work has been ongoing at Ohio State University
Ohio State University
The Ohio State University, commonly referred to as Ohio State, is a public research university located in Columbus, Ohio. It was originally founded in 1870 as a land-grant university and is currently the third largest university campus in the United States...

 to evaluate their benefit for cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

 treatment in mammalian test systems, and the first clinical trials on patients with esophageal
Esophageal can refer to:* The esophagus* Esophageal arteries* Esophageal glands...


The black raspberry is also closely related to the red raspberries
The raspberry or hindberry is the edible fruit of a multitude of plant species in the genus Rubus, most of which are in the subgenus Idaeobatus; the name also applies to these plants themselves...

 Rubus idaeus
Rubus idaeus
Rubus idaeus is a red-fruited species of Rubus native to Europe and northern Asia and commonly cultivated in other temperate regions. A closely related plant in North America, sometimes regarded as the variety Rubus idaeus var...

and Rubus strigosus
Rubus strigosus
Rubus strigosus, the American Red Raspberry or American Raspberry, is a species of Rubus native to much of North America. It has often been treated as a variety or subspecies of the closely related Eurasian Rubus idaeus , but currently is more commonly treated as a distinct...

, sharing the distinctively white underside of the leaves and fruit that readily detaches from the carpel, but differing in the ripe fruit being black, and in the stems being more prickly. The black fruit makes them look like blackberries
The blackberry is an edible fruit produced by any of several species in the Rubus genus of the Rosaceae family. The fruit is not a true berry; botanically it is termed an aggregate fruit, composed of small drupelets. The plants typically have biennial canes and perennial roots. Blackberries and...

, though this is only superficial, with the taste being unique and not like either the red raspberry or the blackberry.

As suggested by the common name, black raspberries usually have very dark purple-black fruits, rich in anthocyanin pigments. However, due to occasional mutations in the genes controlling anthocyanin production, yellow-fruited variants ("yellow raspberries") sometimes occur, and have been occasionally propagated, especially in home/farm gardens in the midwestern United States (e.g., Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

). The yellow-fruited variants of the black raspberry retain that species' distinctive flavor, different from the similar-appearing pale-fruited variants of cultivated red raspberries (generally the Eurasian Rubus idaeus, but with some being the North American Rubus strigosus, and other cultivars representing hybrids between these two widespread species).

Commercial growing and processing

The center for black raspberry production is in the Willamette Valley
Willamette Valley
The Willamette Valley is the most populated region in the state of Oregon of the United States. Located in the state's northwest, the region is surrounded by tall mountain ranges to the east, west and south and the valley's floor is broad, flat and fertile because of Ice Age conditions...

 in Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

. The main cultivar, 'Munger', is grown on about 600 ha (1500 acres). Other cultivars include 'John Robertson', 'Allen', 'Jewel', 'Blackhawk', 'Macblack', 'Plum Farmer', 'Dundee', 'Hanover', and 'Huron'. The plants are summer tipped by hand, mechanically pruned in winter and then machine harvested. The yields are generally low per acre and this is why the fruits are often expensive.

The species has been used in the breeding of many Rubus hybrids; those between red and black raspberries are common under the name purple raspberries; 'Brandywine', 'Royalty' and 'Estate' are examples of purple raspberry cultivars. Wild purple raspberries have also been found in various places in northeastern North America where the two parental species co-occur and occasionally hybridize naturally.

The berries are typically dried or frozen, made into purée
Purée and mash are general terms for cooked food, usually vegetables or legumes, that have been ground, pressed, blended, and/or sieved to the consistency of a soft creamy paste or thick liquid. Purées of specific foods are often known by specific names, e.g., mashed potatoes or apple sauce...

s and juices, or processed as colorants. Fresh berries are also marketed in season. Two well-known liqueur
A liqueur is an alcoholic beverage that has been flavored with fruit, herbs, nuts, spices, flowers, or cream and bottled with added sugar. Liqueurs are typically quite sweet; they are usually not aged for long but may have resting periods during their production to allow flavors to marry.The...

s based predominantly on black raspberry fruit include France's Chambord Liqueur Royale de France
Chambord Liqueur Royale de France
Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur is modelled after a raspberry liqueur produced in the Loire Valley of France during the late 17th century. The liqueur was said to have been introduced to Louis XIV during one of his visits to the Château de Chambord. It was common during that time for liqueurs and...

 and South Korea's various kinds of Bokbunja (see Korean alcoholic beverages).

See also

  • Rubus niveus
    Rubus niveus
    Rubus niveus is a species of Rubus native to southern Asia, from Afghanistan east through India and China to Taiwan and the Philippines, south to Sri Lanka and Malaysia, and north to Gansu in China.It is a shrub growing to 1–2.5 m tall, the stems whitish tomentose at first, becoming glabrous green...

    and Rubus coreanus
    Rubus coreanus
    Rubus coreanus is a species of raspberry native to Korea, Japan, and China. It produces edible berries that are fermented into bokbunja ju, a Korean fruit wine...

    , related Asian species
  • Dewberry
    The dewberries are a group of species in the genus Rubus, section Rubus, closely related to the blackberries. They are small trailing brambles with berries reminiscent of the raspberry, but are usually purple to black instead of red.Dewberries are common throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere,...

    , related North American species
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