Thursday, October 7, 2010

Small-flowered Raspberry

Rubus parvifolius
This little plant at Peacehaven botanic Garden (Kuhl’s Road Highfields) will be worth watching this year. I have never seen a specimen flowering so well. It was very popular with the bees when I took this photo on Wednesday, and is likely to be a mass of fruit later in the season.
The fruits, when they come, will be small, but they are sweet and tasty, particularly on well-cared-for plants like this one.

Its flowers, as you see, are not really showy. They never open widely, but keep the petals pressed close to their anthers as shown.

The smallest of our three local native raspberries, this is not a plant most people would choose to grow in their gardens. It spreads by underground stems, and can create a prickly nuisance.
Yes, I do grow one at home. It was on our land before we were, and I have the sneaking feeling that it has rights - and it does have charm. But I weed it back very firmly in spring, when it puts up shoots in unwanted places. I also weed rather carefully around it in the early stages of its regrowth, as otherwise weeding is an uncomfortable/impossible job. As you see from the above photo, it can grow very thickly, shading out weeds and providing excellent cover for small birds and other little creatures.
Raspberries are usually thought of as plants of rainforest edges, but this drought and frost hardy plant is usually found in grassy Eucalypt woodlands, and the edges of dry vine scrubs, and likes to be grown where it gets quite a lot of sun (which does keep the plants neater - in shade they send out long, prickly shoots which annoy, and produce fewer flowers and even fewer fruits.)
Its leaves can be mistaken for blackberries, but are easily distinguished because they are furry white underneath.
All three of our native raspberry species (the others are R. rosifolius and R. moluccanus) occur naturally over a large area of Australia and South-east Asia. The fruits of R. parvifolius are made into wine in Japan.
(I'm sure there are, amongst my readers, people who willl look at the botanical and the common names, and say "parvifolius... surely that should be small LEAFED raspberry". I haven't the will to argue, but in practice the leaves are not notably small compared with R. rosifolius, whereas the small flowers are a very noticeable characteristic, so the above common name seems justified.)
For notes on another native raspberry, see May 2010.

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