Blackberry Bushes

09 September 2020 | Posted in Barry Yates , Rye Harbour , Plants
Blackberry Bushes

The Blackberry or Bramble is a member of the rose family and it makes a great habitat for many birds, insects and spiders - not forgetting that it produces delicious, juicy, black berries in August and September. 

Blackberry 4990

It is a plant that can be quick to colonise new areas of grassland because the seeds are carried in the gut of mammals and birds - that's why the fruit is so delicious. One of the main distributors of the seeds is the Badger and at this time of the year you can see their black latrines which shows they are feasting on Blackberries. 

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Another reason for its success is the armoury of sharp prickles protecting it from grazing animals and also helping it to climb over itself and other plants.

Bramble prickle 9082053

In May the mass of flowers provide so much pollen and nectar for a huge number of insects, including bumblebees and butterflies - like this Painted Lady. 

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May is also the month when the Bramble is a great soundscape of birds nesting in it - Cettis' and Sedge Warblers, Lesser and Common Whitethroats (photo) and Linnets. 

Bramble and whitethroat 3529

The Cuckoo is a regular visitor to feast on the hairy caterpillars of Brown-tail Moth that are large when the birds first arrive back from Africa in April. The caterpillars overwinter in family groups in silk tents constructed in September by an army of the tiny, first stage caterpillars.

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Bramble and brown tail moth 08001

It's not just the birds that are noisy in the Bramble, if you have young ears, or a bat detector you'll hear all sorts of mechanical noises -  in the second half of this video below, with the bat detector plugged in you can hear the repetitive constant sound of Short-winged Conehead in the grassy edges of the Bramble and also the harsh clicks are the Speckled Bush-cricket hidden in the bushes.

This is what a Speckled Bush Cricket looks like.

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By late summer most leaves show distinctive spotting of the Violet Bramble Rust and if you hold the leaves up to the light they can form interesting patterns.

Violet bramble rust 067459

On the other hand, Bramble can be invasive and turn a wildlife rich grassland into a monoculture, so in trying to maintain a mosaic of habitats at Rye Harbour we manage the Bramble by cutting, grazing and some careful spot spraying. On some parts of the nature reserve we maintain rides that are like very long, narrow meadows with grassland flowers like Yellow Rattle, Tufted Vetch and Common Spotted Orchid - these rides provide walking routes and sheltered places for animals out of the frequent strong wind.

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There are many microspecies of Blackberry, with slightly different shaped leaves and flowers, and if you sample fruits from different bushes you will appreciate that some are sweeter and juicier than others. Some secret bushes make the finest Apple and Blackberry Crumble....

Apple and blackberry crumble 5121


  • Mike Mitchell:

    10 Sep 2020 12:27:00

    Thanks for yet another very interesting article. But most of all you’ve shown me a new use for my bat detector!!!

  • Tessa Parker:

    10 Sep 2020 13:15:00

    I was at Rye Harbour a couple of weeks ago, and sampled a few blackberry that we ready for picking. I found that that they had a ‘drier’ taste as to the ‘country’ blackberries, and put this down to the salt air. Unless it was because they were on old bushes and I did not find your secret ones!

  • Anthony Burcombe:

    10 Sep 2020 13:32:00

    Amazing info about blackberrys etc.the bat detector is great, there is so much to see and hear in nature. Thank goodness we have people like you.

  • CherryLynnevery:

    10 Sep 2020 13:55:00

    Very interesting article

  • Rebecca Polain:

    10 Sep 2020 14:30:00

    We seem to have a bumper season for blackberries this year. They started a little earlier than last, but boy are they prolific! Some branches now all picked but others bearing flowers. We have had a constant supply since the beginning of August and there are still many more to ripen. I have been making jam, lots of it! Nothing beats homemade blackberry jam and my husband eats it at least three times a day! Lol

  • Fiona Flynn:

    10 Sep 2020 16:49:00

    Wonderful – but why are they such lusty, aggressive growers? And why do some brambles have masses of blackberries on them and some have none?

  • Janet Fendley:

    10 Sep 2020 18:06:00

    This is my first time and I just loved the video/bat detector part of the report.
    Informative and well illustrated
    Thank you

  • ben carias:

    10 Sep 2020 21:42:34

    Nice little piece, just thought I’d show my appreciation :) Nice to know some of the likely birds one might find – Hollingbury golf course area has always been my blackberry spot . Thanks!

  • Chris George:

    11 Sep 2020 06:43:00

    Thank you for a very interesting article about a plant we just take for granted.

  • ben carias:

    11 Sep 2020 19:51:00

    Nice little piece, just thought I’d show my appreciation :) Nice to know some of the likely birds one might find – Hollingbury golf course area has always been my blackberry spot . Thanks!

  • Wendy Dumbleton:

    14 Sep 2020 14:21:00

    Enjoyed this video, my hearing is normally bad but with the aid of the bat detector I could hear it all. Interesting to identify the cricket and link up the sounds.

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