Bramble or Blackberry: Would a Fruit by Any Name Taste as Sweet?

Bramble leaves turn red in autumn

If you want to know the difference between a bramble and a blackberry, you’ll find various definitions online:

  • A bramble is a blackberry and vice versa.
  • Blackberry is the fruit and bramble the bush.
  • Bramble is wild (Rubus vulgaris) and blackberry (Rubus fruiticosus) is cultivated.
  • Bramble is the northern name and blackberry the southern.
  • A bramble is any rough, tangled, prickly shrub, usually in the genus Rubus.
  • Some people combine the two to specify the type of fruit: blackberry bramble, raspberry bramble, loganberry bramble.

Bramble runners with purple foliage in the grass

The answers seem plausible to a greater or lesser degree, and geography will influence what sounds right to you. As a northern British speaker, I use them like this:

  • I picked and ate a wild blackberry (= the fruit; could also be a cultivated berry)
  • I tripped over a bramble (= a long, prickly cane)
  • The rabbit hid in a blackberry bush (= the whole plant)

I’d use bramble as a generic folk name for the whole plant if I wanted an earthy, rural term or did not need to specify the type of fruit.

Autumn blackberry leaves translucent in the sun

There are around 330 bramble species in the UK, some highly localised. These plants were growing on moorland and had unusually bright red autumn foliage that caught the sunlight beautifully.

Foragers will be aware that some wild blackberry bushes produce larger, sweeter fruit than others. The botanical name for the cultivated variety of blackberries (Rubus fruiticosus) should be the most reliable indication of sweetness, but I’ve sometimes found wild berries as sweet as any – and being wild gave their sweetness extra pleasure.

Shared for Cee’s FOTD challenge.

41 Replies to “Bramble or Blackberry: Would a Fruit by Any Name Taste as Sweet?”

  1. Yes, I’ll go along with all that. We have some fine fruits around here, as well as some that remain obdurately small and hard whatever the weather – and all within a few yards of each other. But it’s all over now till next year.

    1. There’s one name that always takes me by surprise when I hear it being applied more widely than I am used to in the southern states of America – buttercup, I think.

  2. As a child I used “bramble” for the fruit and the bush, but moved south and had this usage mocked out of me. This year the fruits ripened weeks later than last year, because of the poor summer. Recently, round here, they have been cursed by a white fungus-like growth, which sucks the life from the fruit but leaves it on the vine, shrivelled.

    1. You don’t need to move far to become seemingly unintelligible. I was roundly teased for my accent/vocabulary just an hour away in Liverpool as a student. Asking for an ice lolly drew a blank stare until they worked out I meant lolly ice.

  3. This is so interesting! I love the word “bramble,” but I don’t know that I could say why. I didn’t know that it applied to so many things in so many places. The photos are beautiful; I didn’t know brambles were that photogenic. But let’s go back to that first comment — there’s an apple and blackberry tart? That sounds SO good! What a lovely autumn post!

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