Try growing: native raspberries

This blog doesn't feature many 'try growing' segments any more because the Growing Illawarra Natives website provides all the information you need to grow (most of) our region's local native species.

But sometimes there's still a need to promote particular plants and groups of plants. I have recently witnessed people enthusiastically removing native Raspberry (Rubus) species, under the mistaken impression that they were weeds.  I guess it's an easy mistake to make, if you don't pay attention and work out what plant you're looking at. So here's a bit of a primer-crossed-with-a-promo on our local native Raspberry species. 

Illawarra is home to four different species of Rubus. Two are more familiar and suitable for gardens, while the other two are wild and prickly and not to most people's tastes! They all have edible fruit, though some are yummier than others. 

First up, the one that most people will be familiar with from the Mount Keira (Djeera) ring track and elsewhere, Rose-leaf Bramble (Rubus rosifolius). It's a robust plant of many prickly canes/stems that can form a fairly dense mound or even shrub-type structure. The fruit are shaped rather like strawberries, and when fully ripe taste pretty good, though some fruit have a resinous flavour. Unripe they are pretty bland!!
A fully ripe fruit of the Rose-leaf Bramble (Rubus rosifolius). Image by Leon Fuller.

And this is the plant. The canes are covered in thorns, so it can be a very effective deterrent to deer, wallaby or other unwanted garden visitors. Image by Leon Fuller. 

Also relatively common and well-recognised is the small-leaved Native Raspberry or Rubus parvifolius. It is a smaller plant than Rose-leaf Bramble and generally grows more as a scrambler. Its fruit are small but juicy and delicious when fully ripe. 
The flowers and leaves of the small-leaved Native Raspberry (Rubus parvifolius). You can see how small the flowers are too! Image by Emma Rooksby. 

The fruit are small, but very juicy and delicious! Image by Kirsten Vine. All rights reserved.

The other two indigenous Rubus species in Illawarra are large, ferocious, prickly and generally considered too troublesome for gardens. But they both have their virtues. The Molucca Bramble (Rubus Moluccanus var. trilobus) has very attractive leaves, and can grow into an impressive large shrubby plant over 2m tall. (I have seen a specimen almost 3m tall in the Australian National Botanic Garden in Canberra.) The fruit are fairly yum but you have to be careful getting to them!
This plant is still only a baby, but it's rampantly sprawling up a 2m trellis. Image by Leon Fuller. 

Look at those lovely leaves! Three-lobed, a mix of pale and darker greens, and covered with delicate hairs. Just watch out for the thorns on the stems!! Image by Emma Rooksby. 
The fourth local Raspberry species is the least commonly seen (in my experience at least) and the hardest to love. So wiry, so prickly, so rarely seen in fruit! It's the Bush Lawyer (Rubus nebulosus), which can be found in rainforest, sprawling around the place and generally being hard to escape from once you tangle with it. It doesn't have its own profile on GIN, but it's worth knowing what it looks like so that you can respect (and avoid) it while out walking, and also know not to pull it out by mistake, thinking that it's a Blackberry plant!
Look at all the spikes and spines and prickles on pretty well every part of this plant! Image by Peter Woodard. 
So there you have it, our local Illawarra Raspberry species. Please share what you know of growing any of them, including the trickier ones! You can comment on this post, or contribute to the Growing Illawarra Natives group on Facebook if you prefer. Happy Raspberry growing!

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