Blackberries arrive in Oregon

While the true story may be lost to history, we do know that the European native ‘Evergreen’ blackberry was brought to the Oregon Territory in the mid 1800s either from the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) to be grown at Fort Vancouver, or it was brought by immigrant settlers on the Oregon Trail.

It certainly didn’t take long for Oregon’s wild blackberries to be known and appreciated by other settlers to the area. By the 1910s, Gresham had secured its place as the “Raspberry Capital of the World,” leading the west as a grower and processor of the sweet, ruby fruits. Although only one blackberry is truly native to the state — the trailing blackberry or dewberry (Rubus ursinus), this little creeping berry would go on to accomplish great things. We wouldn’t have the Marionberry without it.

This is an artistic representation of caneberry lineage. To see the available detailed pedigree for each berry, visit the varieties page.

1881: The Accidental Loganberry

In 1881, California judge and amateur plant breeder James H. Logan accidentally invented the ‘Loganberry’ in his back yard when he planted two blackberries near an old raspberry vine. Of the 50 seedlings produced from this mix, one was noticeably robust; he named this berry after himself: the ‘Loganberry’.

This berry would eventually make its way to the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) breeding program run collaboratively with Oregon State University. George Waldo crossed Logan’s creation with ‘Young’ (aka ‘Youngberry’) that was a variety developed by Byrnes M. Young in Morgan City, Louisiana to create ‘Olallie’. While ‘Olallie’; (aka ‘Olallieberry’) always performed better in California than it’s Oregon birthplace it turned out to a be wonderful parent. Waldo also developed ‘Chehalem’ from a cross between ‘Santiam’ (a wild selection of the western dewberry) and the ‘Himalaya’ (introduced to North America by plant breeder Luther Burbank). In 1945, Waldo crossed ‘Chehalem’ with ‘Olallie’ to make our most famous and beloved berry, the ‘Marion’.

basket of Oregon berries

Blackberry & Raspberry Capital

Devoted solely to creating better berries, the partnership between horticulturists at Oregon State University and the USDA- ARS is now more than a century old. 2 This cooperative project began raspberry and blackberry breeding programs in 1927, resulting in many of our favorite berries’ ancestors. The program still uses wild Oregon berries for breeding better varieties.

Though the varieties of we’ve grown have evolved over the past hundred or so years, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is still—and will likely always be—the blackberry and raspberry capital of the world.

[1] Herbert Lang, History of the Willamette Valley (Portland, 1885), 570.

[2] Mortenson, Eric. (2016, June 9th). George Waldo left Oregon a Legacy of Sweetness. Retrieved from http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20160609/george-waldo-left-oregon-a-legacy-of-sweetness