Blackberry? or black raspberry?

Blackberry

The above photo shows a Blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis).  It is frequently confused with Black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis).  What follows is a series of side-by-side comparisons of these two plants.  Blackberry is always on the left side while Black raspberry is shown on the right side.

First we’ll look at a group of plants for each Rubus species.  Both have canes which develop roots at the tip when they get long enough to flop over and touch the ground.

Blackberry-black raspberry

Let’s check out the leaves.

Blackberry-black raspberry

The overall leaf shape is quite similar.  Both have compound leaves with 3-5 leaflets per leaf.  Both sets of leaflets have pinnate venation and serrated margins.  However, there is a significant difference between them.  Look at the underside of their leaves . . .

Blackberry-black raspberry

Although the underside of Blackberry’s leaves are lighter than their upper side, the Black raspberry leaves are markedly lighter.  They look almost white.

Next, let’s study the stems (or canes) of each plant.

Blackberry-black raspberry

Both plants have leaves which alternate along the thorny stems.  The Black raspberry stems are notably glaucous (bluish white).  Another difference can be seen in a closer view of the stems.  The Blackberry stems have ridges and angles while the Black raspberry stems are smoothly round-shaped (nearly circular in diameter).

Blackberry-black raspberry

Each plant’s thorns are different.  Blackberry thorns are heavy-duty and definitely not to be tangled with whereas the Black raspberry thorns are somewhat less challenging due to their smaller overall size.

Now for the berries.  Here are some green berries — beginning their development from the pollinated flowers.  The differences between the two plants’ berries are subtle.

Blackberry-black raspberry

The berries begin to ripen and they still look quite similar.

Blackberry-black raspberry

When the berries are fully ripe, they turn almost black in color (hence each plant’s common name).

Blackberry-black raspberry

Let’s pick a berry from each plant.

Blackberry-black raspberry

And now we can see one more notable difference between these plants.  The Blackberry fruit pulls away from the plant — leaving a rather flat receptacle on the plant.   The Black raspberry fruit pulls away and leaves a sizable cone-shaped receptacle.  (This is easier to see if you click on any of the photos and then zoom in with your browser’s “view” function.)

Blackberry-black raspberryCorrespondingly, the Blackberry fruit is nearly flat across the part of the berry which was attached to the plant, while the Black raspberry fruit has a deep indentation in the berry.

Both fruits are edible and prized for jams, jellies and just plain eating as you pick.

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69 Responses to Blackberry? or black raspberry?

  1. Gina Fernandez says:

    Well done! I have not seen a side by side season long look at the two species. Nice work!

  2. patheon says:

    Nice job. Might want to add that Black Raspberry canes tend to arch and grow roots where they touch the ground. Also, Raspberry canes probably will be purple and not blue at that stage, but still have a light powder on them. Blackberry tend not to develop arches and the color of the canes is usually green or tan.

  3. Bob Moore says:

    Bravo Zulu! I have a whole patch of what I thought were a kind of blackberry, but now know to be black raspberries. Not surprising, since raspberries grow wild all over the place here (Canton, NC). They don’t bear much though. Now I’ll have to study up on cultivating them.

  4. Joe Davis says:

    Whew.Thanks for giving us the insight’s and it’s side by side comparison of blackberry and black Raspberry Angelyn! They are almost the same but when I take a closer look I found out their difference.Despite of their differences I still love both berries present on my delicacies.

  5. niome teh says:

    i wanted to know about the black berry leaves of plants, flower and about the north america tree,

  6. deno says:

    Thank you folks for the info. I have a plant which I think is raspberry, its tall it has the greenish cane with thorns and it has grown very very tall about 7-9 ft. Moreover no fruit yet, but it has white flowers. Is this the start of the blooming for raspberries. I can post the picture here. Thanks for your help

    Deno

    • Angelyn says:

      Deno, from your description it does sound like a Black raspberry. Just compare the leaves, etc. with the photos above. Also, you’ll know better once the plant fruits.

  7. Michael says:

    Thanks a bunch!

    I have a huge patch of black raspberries. I was not 100% sure before but I am now. They produce a ton of fruit and are starting to grow out of control! I need to read how to prune them.

  8. Abby says:

    I am studying for the National Jr. Horticulture Association Horticulture Identification Contest in Williamsburg VA, and need to be able to tell the difference between these two. One of the major differences I have noticed is that Raspberries in general do not have thorns on the underside of the leaves like Blackberries do.

  9. Thank you so much! By any chance might you have this as a PDF file that I could copy and save?
    Chris

    • Angelyn says:

      Chris, I do not have this as a pdf (although that’s an idea worth considering to implement). Hopefully, you have the ability to print the post which will serve your purpose even if the photo images get split over two pages.

      • Christon J. Hurst says:

        Dear Angelyn:

        Thank you for replying! I have now copied it to a Word document, and that worked. With best wishes, Chris

  10. CHORDIA. A. G says:

    Hi,

    Valuable tips to identify the two.
    Am looking to get som Rasphberry seeds…… Golden and black.
    Would appreciate if anyone send me some.
    I will pay for the postage.
    Thanks.

    Chordia

  11. Pingback: Plant Identification – Getting it wrong | South Mountains Natural History Club

  12. LaTell says:

    Was wondering what I have in the field next to my house. The off shot of the leaves have clusters of 5 leaves but the vines to me appear to be a reddish color. Any clue, they start red and then turn black.

    • Angelyn says:

      Do the leaves of your plant look like either of the plants’ leaves I’ve shown above? When you say “they start red and then turn black” are you referring to the stem, or the berries, or the leaves? Is your plant a “vine” or is it more of a tall “bramble?” Does it grow berries? Do the berries look like either of the plants shown above?

      • LaTell says:

        They grow in a spread out creeping type pattern. The color I believe is from the turning ripe and they look exactly like the berries in the pictures but are a little more elongated at times. And to me the leaves look like a 5 leaf marijuana plant.

  13. LaTell says:

    I’m sorry I was looking at the wrong thing the entire time. The portion that grows the berries looks just like picture above there are three leaves two to the side and one larger one at the top. No bramble they seem to just be sporadic, I have pictures and wish I could send them to you.

  14. I think I have these in my yard… could you tell me if in the fall the stems turn red/purple? Some photos of mine @ http://reluctant-gardener.chrisnolan.ca/tagged/thorny-red-vine

    What time of the season do the berries usually show up?

    Thanks

    • Angelyn says:

      Chris, the bluish stems as shown in your photos would indicate this is Black raspberry. The berries are just beginning to ripen now (mid-June) where I live in western NC. The canes grow the first year and produce berries in their second year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the canes turn red/purple in the fall. Rather, they turn a dark brown (as shown in one of the photos in your link) after fruiting and dying.

      • Thanks for the reply. I got all excited we’d have some berries, but I’m ok waiting until next year for them. Serves me right for clearing the area before knowing what they were, I’m sure I got rid of some of the canes that would have fruited this year.

  15. Rick says:

    Blackberries have run a muck at my place and they are mixed with purple Passion flowers/fruit! Georgous blooms and really waiting to try the fruit. Just made a batch of blackberry jam ( they were getting eaten fast) thanks for your id photos were awesome.

  16. Tea says:

    This was such a wonderful comparison, exactly what I was looking for. Thank you.
    We are so happy that the Black Rasberries have found new places to grow after losing the only patch we thought we had to the line crews doing clearing for the power lines. Mother nature is wonderful.

  17. Marilyn Ruffner says:

    I have been picking Black raspberries from tall trees. Didn’t know they grew on trees with no thorns and taste very sweet. I live in central IL. Do you think I’m eating a good berry? Not sick yet.

    • Angelyn says:

      I wonder if perhaps you’re picking mulberries — which grow on a tree. Look up the mulberry and compare its leaves with your tree’s leaves to see if maybe that’s what you’ve been picking. Mulberries are edible.

      • Fred Stair says:

        I have been picking berries since I was a young boy in the thirties and if we brought enough home my mother would make a pie and other nice things to eat.

        There is one aspect of the berry comparison which must be mentioned; the taste.

        Comparing the taste of blackberries to black raspberries is, as they say, like comparing the lightning bug to lightning.
        A slice of homemade raspberry pie made with wild black raspberries by loving hands, seeds and all, is in a class by itself.

  18. Chris Williams says:

    Question. I have black raspberry plants. Every spring I get these white stems that produce no fruit. I was told to clip & throw away so that they will produce fruit the next year. What do I do with these white shoots? This year I have a mess of them that have spurted up all over the place.

    • Angelyn says:

      Chris, you need to KEEP the new white shoots if you want berries. They will have berries in the following year. Both Black raspberry and Blackberry plants send up shoots in year one which then bear fruit in year two. What needs to be cut back are the canes which have ALREADY borne fruit. These second-year canes will turn brown in the fall. That’s when they are ready for removal.

    • Kim eastman says:

      my black raspberry bushes are just now (July. 15) producing little white flowers. Does this mean fruit this year?

  19. Dee says:

    Great pics !! I wasn’t sure what I had growing along the edge of my property, Blackberries or Raspberries. The berries are still kinda small and it is not all that sunny there. Well, thanks to the pictures of the leaves and stems I could identify them. I have both Blackberries AND Black Raspberries!!!! Thank you!!

  20. Ruthie says:

    Well done! This is very helpful. I would love you to do a comparison between blackberry and white-blooming wild rose. (pre-fruiting – I’ve got it from there! ;o) )

  21. Tikvah says:

    Is there a way to tell the difference between blackberry plants and raspberry plants when they’re very young? I’ve got some random berry plants sprouting in my yard. I don’t want the blackberry plants, as we don’t have the room, but I might be able to put the raspberry canes in a pot.

    • Angelyn says:

      The difference can be determined by looking at the stems as well as the thorns/prickles (as illustrated above). Black raspberry has the glaucous stems. Red raspberry and black raspberry have the small numerous prickles. Blackberry has green stems and large thorns which are spaced further apart. After working with the plants for a while, you will have an intuitive knowing about the plant’s identify even when young.

  22. Spire says:

    Angelyn alludes to “prickles”. Something you may consider updating in your article. Raspberries, blackberries (and roses) do not have thorns. They have “prickles”. This is an important plant morphology distinction if you are speaking about plant identification.

    Learn more:
    Thorns, spines, and prickles
    http://goo.gl/AGLcVm

  23. Doni says:

    My husband, Dad & I relocated to east TX from WI. What a difference in gardening as well as wild eatables. ~~ Thank you for the visual comparisons! I/We really needed this.
    My question, will our black raspberries do ok if they’re relocated to an area we have dedicated to berries…which has sandy’ish soil which is amended a bit (& coffee grounds are added fairly often? They’re growing in hard clay soil right now. The berry area has a chicken cage around it so when appropriate we can keep the birds out…while letting bees in.
    Thank you Very much!

    • Angelyn says:

      The black raspberries should do fine in the new location. They have a tendency to spread quite easily so you may even have to tell them to stop growing in places you don’t want them (in future years).

  24. Mike says:

    Thanks, I can now tell the difference. I have both.

  25. Pingback: Black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) | Growing in Zone 4

  26. Cheryl Giers says:

    Some of my ripe blackberries are partially turning tan-ish and look like they are over ripe but only on parts of the berry……I’m not sure what’s going on. Is there something wrong with them? Thanks

  27. Craig says:

    I live in northeast Connecticut and I was wondering what kind of plant this is. It looks like a black raspberry but smaller. It grows low to the ground all over my garden. Does anyone know what these little berries are and if there edible?

    • Angelyn says:

      You may be describing a Dewberry which has berries just like Blackberry (NOT Black raspberry). The difference from Blackberry is that the Dewberry is a vining type of plant. Its berries are edible. To be sure of what you have, do a search on Dewberry and compare its description and images with your plant.

    • schrodie says:

      Try the “pick” test: pick a berry that looks ripe and pull it off. If there is a “plug” in the stem side of the berry, it’s probably a blackberry (or dewberry or a very close relative of the blackberry). If there’s a belly button or deep dimple and no plug, it’s probably a raspberry.

      Your “creeping” description sounds like you have dewberries. If they ripen very early, a week or two before wild blackberries in your area, they’re probably a dewberry and the same rules apply to dewberries as to blackberries… and dewberries are just as tasty as blackberries!

      Dewberries are also (often) more purple in color than deep-black, as compared to true blackberries, and their seeds are a bit larger and tougher than blackberry seeds. Dewberries also have shorter and less “vicious” thorns than blackberries, though they can still poke you if you aren’t careful! Dewberries are also a bit larger and more tangy-tart than blackberries, which are usually a little sweeter. Dewberries are delicious and make a wonderful preserves or jam if you can sift out some of the seeds.

      Mulberries are another thing altogether. They look like blackberries and raspberries, but often lack the richness of flavor of either one– I find them to be less tasty, but that’s just my opinion and preference. They grow on a tree or shrub instead of a vine or bramble. The fruit is more elongated than a blackberry or raspberry. (I included this info because there was at least one question about the “North American tree”. That tree is probably a mulberry, which has several varieties based on the berry color. There is a flavor difference among all the “colors”, with “black” being called the most flavorful though red mulberry is also in favor. White mulberry seems to be rather bland.)

      *Just saw this reply– seems I was correct on my guess about the plant in question being a dewberry. I live in the South and know dewberries quite well! Enjoy them, but watch for the seeds… my ONLY beef with dewberries! 🙂

  28. gnickgnack says:

    Thanks for the definitive ID differences. I have been wondering about my two similar berries, noticing that one had worse thorns and would have many compounds of 5 leaves, or three leaves with the bottom two being double lobed. I just killed off many of these, because it seems as though my sumacs that are dying are all surrounded by these, but those surrounded by the black raspberry are just fine.

  29. Mike Huckins says:

    Exactly what I was looking for – excellent!

  30. David says:

    Maybe you can help me. I was walking around my property the other day and noticed something strange. Looking at the plants I could tell they aren’t the normal blackberry so I thought they may be raspberries finding your site I compared the two. These have round stems and many small pickles just like the rasberries, but the stems are red and the leaves aren’t light on the bottom. The leaves are clearly different than a blackberry and it’s blooms are one a small stalk down the main stalk instead of clustered and the start with a pink outside. Thanks for your help.

  31. Jeannie says:

    I’m trying to identify a plant growing along woods. We have a lot of wild rose, branching, drooping stems and very thorny. We also have blackberry growing in foundation mulch. But I am seeing something that looks like a wild rose or blackberry, branching out and hanging, but no thorns. They look young but are already 4-5 feet tall. Anyone know what they are?
    Also, I just dug up and transplanted small blackberry plants from my mulch. Will they take? I had to cut the root at some point because they traveled too great a distance – I would have dug up the whole foundation mulch.
    Thanks.

  32. Beth Yentsch says:

    I planted black raspberries two years ago. We got a few berries the first year. This year we are getting quite a few but they have little to no flavor. Can you suggest something I might add to the soil to bring out more flavor. Also, I am considering planting some of my blackberries and some of my raspberries in a patch next to each other to see if I could get more flavor in the raspberries. Do you know if this would work?

    • Angelyn says:

      I am uncertain why some blackberries taste better than others. I have wondered if it varies from year to year. . . or of the soil has something to do with it. . . or the amount of rain. . . I suspect planting with raspberries will have no effect on the flavor of the blackberries. As for what might improve the blackberry flavor, I do know that it helps to let the berry become VERY ripe. I have also learned that cultivated (for example, “thornless” or “large berry”) plants do not necessary mean “flavorful” plants. Again, I have planted and tasted both cultivated and wild blackberries. Some plants do better than others and it seems to me that at can vary each year.

  33. Tina says:

    Can you have a 2 in 1 plant cause I see both of everything you mentioned on what it seems like the same plant

    • Angelyn says:

      I have not seen a “2 in 1” plant in nature. I have seen plants that are combinations of two plants when people develop hybrids or splice one type of plant onto another plant (such as a Flowering dogwood with some branches of white flowers and some branches of pink flowers).

  34. Pingback: Foraging Wild Black Raspberries | Folk + Co. Homesteading in Missouri

  35. Beth Deth says:

    When I took over a property for my father he chided me for planting a white mulberry plant. I told him it was the only berries my box turtle, turtle dove will eat! He went on to say, but there is a giant bush of black ones already. Thanks to this site I now know they are not mulberries but blackberries. Miss Dove isnt impressed by them but im making mixed berry preserves like crazy! Thank you 🙂

  36. Jennifer says:

    We have berries on a tall tree but there are no thorns. They are smaller than traditional blackberries but much sweeter. Also. When we pick them, the stem comes with them but they are definitely ripe. We are in Colorado and it’s been producing for weeks now. They appear to be closer to the pics on left.

  37. Gina says:

    So I just bought a new house last fall. So I didn’t really know anything about what was planted other than it was clear that it was very over grown. Lol . Well since the beginning g of the spring I’ve been trying to save and transplant all sorts of stuff. (Lots of blood sweat and tears went into this as I have no experience with any kind of gardening lol. Anyway I came across what I believed to be two different types of berry bushes. The first one was large aprx 4-5 ft wide and 2-3 ft tall. I dug it up seperately it into 5 different plants and only 4 survived but are just now starting to really flurish and one just over the last couple days one of the four has gotten it’s first flower and the plant does not have thorns and I’m still trying to figure for sure what they are. Then the other one I’m curious about is not growing very well at all. It seems to be healthy just not really growing this on the other hand has thorns. I was wondering if anyone could help me identify them?

    • Angelyn says:

      You might just have to wait until they bloom and produce fruit before you can positively identify them. Also, you did not say where (what region) these plants are growing. For the “thornless” plant, you may have a cultivated variety of blackberry.

      • Gina says:

        I’m sorry I live in iowa. The plant that I’ve seperated and is now coming up in several other places too that I noticed yesterday has another flower today and the “branches” do extend way out 3-4 ” and then lay on the ground . The other one I mentioned that has thorns and isn’t really growing is light green in color and and and even lighter green on the back side of the leaf and stalk it’s almost a light blue green but again sadly is not really growing. ?

  38. Gina says:

    I meant to say the plant extends way out 3-4 ft then lays on the ground. Sorry

  39. Shauna Johnston says:

    Thank you for this thorough comparison. This is extremely detailed and helpful.

  40. Donna says:

    Excellent info. Very detailed comparisons and contrasts. Very helpful. Thank you.

  41. Clayton Brown says:

    Thank you for helping I.D. a plant I have been wondering about for a long time. First site I hove found that was so definitive. What is the origin of Black Raspberry, is it native to Western Oregon or introduced to the U.S.?

    We here are overrun with Himalayan Blackberries, English Ivy and Scotch Broom.

  42. CM says:

    I was confused for the longest time because I have both of these growing wild in my yard but could never figure out which was which.

  43. Donna says:

    Thank you so much for such a clear description that allows me to tell the difference while the plants are not fruiting. This is very helpful.

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