rubus

To be honest, some of our native brambleberries are not for the faint of heart or tidy-small-space gardener. The wild Rubus is a romping, happy grower that, while providing much beneficial cover and shelter for songbirds, can easily become a thicket when given sufficient moisture and nutrients.

If you've ever grown cultivated raspberries you have the idea, but the amount of spread is greater for the wilder members of the group. However, if you have an untamed hedgerow or left-on-its-own shady area in your landscape for the sake of attracting birds to your garden, then a native Rubus might be the perfect addition.

The genus contains both shrubs (R. parviflorus, R. spectabilis) and groundcovers (R. lasiococcus, R. pedatus). Groundcover forms are very difficult to find, so we’ll stick to the shrubby types in this review.

Thimbleberry

Rubus parviflorus Thimbleberry

This shrub is deciduous, thornless, and generally tops out at about six feet, spreading laterally by underground, woody rhizomes. Largish, maple-shaped leaves and papery white blossoms begin to appear in late-spring. The berries that follow are red when ripe, and separate from their receptacles like cultivated raspberries, giving them the thimble shape of its common name.

This is the one Rubus that can be found east of the Cascades, so it is perhaps more tolerant of drier, sunnier conditions, though it will still thrive in wooded settings. Can grow in full sun to partial shade, and because it so readily forms suckers it is a good plant for erosion control on untamed slopes. Flowers attract butterflies and birds appreciate its protective cover along with the berries. Some people also like the berries, though some find the taste rather bland. (Photo credit of Thimbleberry Bush - Dennis Ancinec)

Salmonberry

Rubus spectabilis Salmonberry

Though salmonberry can grow in full sun with sufficient water, this is the Rubus most commonly found along our west Cascade hiking trails. The upright, arching branches vary from nearly thornless to quite thorny, and are apt to grow to ten feet, if left unpruned. It blooms in early spring shortly before the full development of the large, palmate leaves.

The flowers are an eye-shocking pinkish-purple that are a magnet for hummingbirds, and are a striking contrast to the bright green of the new leaves that follow. The fruit, which also resembles the raspberry, is small, orange to red. The flavor can vary widely, but it is generally considered tastier than thimbleberry. But even if you don't like the taste, birds finding their way to your garden definitely will. Found along streams and in moist woods, this is the one for wetter areas. It too will create a formidable thicket that birds find good protective cover (though slightly drier conditions might keep the spread a bit more in check. Maybe. A bit.)

Photos by The Wild Garden

Find Natives for your garden

We offer a great selection of Northwest Natives from spring through fall. The plants featured are highlighted favorites, but they do not represent ALL of the plants we carry. For a more complete list, see our Northwest Native Plant List.

Natives

Abies: Native Fir

Natives

Acer Circinatum: Vine Maple

Natives

Actaea: Bugbane

Natives

Aquilegia: Columbine

Natives

Arbutus: Pacific Madrone

Natives

Asarum: Wild Ginger

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Asclepias: Milkweed

Natives

Attracting Butterflies

Natives

Camassia: Camas

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Ceanothus: Wild Lilac

Natives

Cornus sericea

Red Twig Dogwood
Natives

Corylus cornuta

Beaked Hazelnut
Natives

Dodecatheon: Shooting Star

Natives

Edible Fruits

Natives

Erigeron: Fleabane

Natives

Eriophyllum: Oregon Sunshine

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Native Ferns

Natives

Fragaria: Wild Strawberry

Natives

Gaultheria shallon: Salal

Natives

Holodiscus: Oceanspray

Natives

Attracting Hummingbirds

Natives

Native Iris

Natives

Lewisia: Bitterroot

Natives

Mahonia: Oregon Grape

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Malus fusca

Western Crabapple
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Osmaronia: Indian Plum

Natives

Penstemon: Beard Tongue

Natives

Philadelphus: Mock Orange

Natives

Physocarpus

Western Ninebark
Natives

Pinus: Native Pine

Natives

Quercus: Garry Oak

Natives

Rhamnus: Cascara

Natives

Ribes: Wild Currant

Natives

Rosa: Wild Rose

Natives

Rubus: Salmonberry

Natives

Sambucus: Elderberry

Natives

Sedum: Stonecrop

Natives

Sidalcea: Checker Mallow

Natives

Sisyrinchium

Blue-eyed Grass
Natives

Solidago: Goldenrod

Natives

Symphoricarpos: Snowberry

Natives

Synthyris: Native Figwort

Natives

Trillium: Wake Robin

Natives

Vaccinium: Huckleberry

Natives

Vancouveria: Inside-out Flower

Natives

Viburnum trilobum

Cranberrybush
Natives

Viola: Violet

Natives

Winter Interest