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

Bramble leaves can 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 over 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.

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

  1. Very interesting. I’d go along with the brambles being the thorny canes that trip me up on the hill and blackberry being the fruit. I have a thornless blackberry in my garden, which have larger fruit, but often the wild ones taste sweeter. Both good in an apple crumble ๐Ÿ

  2. My thoughts are similar to yours. Blackberries are the fruits, blackberry bushes are what they grow on, and brambles are the low growing things which trip you up or inflict nasty scratches on your legs when you’re wearing shorts.

    I remember falling into the middle of a blackberry bush when I was 14. I was picking blackberries from a gassy bank while my mum picked them from the roadside down below – I put one foot too far over the edge and fell straight down into the bush. All my mum could see was my head at the top and my feet at the bottom – she managed to get me out once she had stopped laughing! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Oh, gosh! That sounds like it must have hurt – I can imagine the scratches. Great story to be able to tell afterwards though. It’s easily done though on the moors – the ground often looks more solid than it is. I found myself sitting down in a very muddy patch a few days ago. I had thought I could squeeze around it, but then my foot started to slip…

      1. Fortunately when I fell into the bush I didn’t fall forwards, I went straight down feet first. I was wearing jeans and a long sleeved top so was reasonably well protected, the only damage was confined to the backs of my hands. It was mentioned in conversation several times over the years and we always had a laugh about it. I think sitting down in a muddy patch would be a bit messy though – I hope you weren’t too far from home.

  3. Yes, bramble is the canes, which are also known as briar. They can form thickets. Blackberries are the fruit.
    Do you know the difference between almonds and almonds? (The first is pronounced like ‘salmon’.)

      1. Almonds, which are pronounced like ‘salmon’, are the fruit while it develops on the tree. Almonds, which are pronounced like ‘palm’, are the nuts within the fruit, without their hulls. Those who grow them say that the former are on the tree, and the latter are off the tree, even if they are still within their hulls. Also, almond grows insist that the ‘L’ is pronounced in the former. Almonds, regardless of pronunciation, are harvested by getting shaken from their trees. Some might say that the process shakes the ‘L’ (“‘ell’) out of them.

  4. This made me smile as it’s a discussion we often have out walking. We have friends in our circle from the north and south and invariably there are differences. By and large we agree, or agree to differ!

    1. I’d love to know whether the ones with red foliage are a particular cultivar or are in the right spot for redness or a fluke of the season. There’s a tree near my sweetheart’s house that goes wonderfully yellow and orange some years but is drab brown others. There’s so much we do not know when we think about plants.

  5. I can’t remember ever hearing someone use the word ‘bramble’ in conversation. I’m not sure what we call them; I think ‘canes’ is most common for the branches. And ‘thicket’ is where the berries grow. Of course, our berry is Rubus trivialis, which is known as the dewberry; it’s slightly smaller and more tart than cultivated blackberries, and it tends to run along the ground.

    The most commonly cultivated berries here are strawberries and blueberries; I know a couple of local picking gardens that have blackberries, but they’re not a dependable crop from year to year. Still, when they’re good, they’re very good indeed.

    1. We’d use ‘thicket’ for a dense patch of vegetation, including shrubs, trees and bushes, which most likely would include brambles.

      1. This just occurred to me. In the lyrics to the old song by Johnny Horton called “The Battle of New Orleans,” there’s this verse:

        “Yeah they ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles
        And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go
        They ran so fast that the hounds couldn’t catch’em
        On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.”

        And of course Bre’r Rabbit is associated with a briar patch. It may be that changes in our language have made words like ‘bramble’ and ‘briar’ less common — or that people’s relationship with nature has eroded to the point where they aren’t necessary!

    1. Brambles reproduce by apomixis, which you’d think would mean they do not vary generation to generation, but genetic variation creeps in through mutations, adaptation to the environment etc. I assume the same will apply in other countries and that the amount of variations quoted will be linked to the amount of time brambles have been around, and the resources scientists have spent looking closely at them, but that’s just my guess.

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