Berry History

Oregon Berry Family TreeTrailing types of blackberries grow on the western slopes of the Sierras and Cascade mountains, and westward to the Pacific Ocean. Rubus ursinus (synonym R. macropetalus) is the only blackberry native to the West Coast. It has slender trailing stems armed with flattened prickles, and is found abundantly on prairies, burns, clearings and dense woodlands from the coast to the mid-mountains and from British Columbia to Northern California and to Eastern Idaho. This native blackberry has been extensively used as a parent in breeding. Analysis of freezing quality blackberries shows at least one quarter parentage of this type.

The Evergreen blackberry, R. lacianatus is native of England, where it is known as the cut-leaf or parsley-leaved blackberry. It appeared in Oregon around 1850, brought to the West Coast with explorers from England. Since that time, it has been spread along the Pacific coast by birds.

Oregon Coast

The Himalaya blackberry was introduced by Luther Burbank at the turn of the century. He thought it was from the Himalaya mountains in Asia. Later he learned it was actually R. procerus of Germany. This is the common blackberry in the Pacific Northwest and is found wherever humans disturbed the land. The Himalaya has become a well known weed, as well as a source of berries for pies and jams, however, it is not commercially grown.

The wild blackberries have been important in the heritage of cultivated blackberries in the Northwest. Although blackberries were picked wild and processed for canning, few growers were interested in growing them commercially because of the thorns. In 1926, Mr. Philip Steffes of Sublimity, Oregon found a thornless plant growing east of Stayton, which was identical to the thorny Evergreen blackberry. When it was tested and found to be as productive as the thorny form, it quickly gained popularity and soon became the main blackberry sold in the United States, and grown extensively in Oregon.