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 Himalayan Blackberries! 
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1146
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Himalayan Blackberries!
As most of what I post is simply sharing my experiences, after a day of hunting down and removing the top portions of Rubus Armeniacus (Himalayan Blackberries) I thought I'd share what I've learned. And, while listening to the Home Orchard Society's own Vice President, Glen Andresen (Glen hosts “The Dirtbag,” heard every second Monday at 10:30 a.m. on KBOO 90.7 FM, and tends his bees on a three-quarter acre organic garden at a retreat in Eagle Creek. He also coordinates Metro’s Natural Gardening Program) ... a caller had asked about removing blackberries... After a(nother) long day of the same, here's what I've found:

They're downright dangerous! And it's most often the 'dead' canes that will get you. Cuts on my arms don't bother me that much, but when they get near my eyes (without eye protection - not smart) I take them more serious. I've battled these nasty things for years, though I've enjoyed their fruit even longer... The problem is, a little bit go a long long way - I've seen houses engulfed by them! Having purchased and reclaimed two bordering acres worth, I've come to know them well. A rental bulldozer tore through the original 8 foot high mass, followed by 20 years of continued fighting. Though they'll reseed in my orchard & garden, I'm mainly battling them among my reclaimed woods of 15 to 20 year old mixed evergreen trees.

My Brother tried digging his out by hand, me too. But you can break a shovel handle, its metal blade, or your back in the process; and with me - they won! Plan B: Spray (actually, "Plan A" had been the bulldozer - quite effective!). Who 'likes' spray? As a longtime reader of Mother Earth News... I certainly didn't, so I went very easy. Having removed the bulk of their canes, I did what was recommended - planted trees. Supposedly, they'll eventually shade them out... and it's working ...slowly. But if you don't kill the BB's roots, they come back as if simply pruned.

With a 6 gallon (heavy) back-pack sprayer filled with the always-changing mix rate of either Crossbow or Roundup, I've made many a call to the dealer to find out just what their 'current' mix rate for Himalayan BB's was? I also keep a calculator on my workbench to see I don't mess up the ratio and mix anything too strong... Which spray do I prefer? The closer I get to my orchard, the more I'll shift to Roundup - supposedly it's less toxic. I've a neighbor convinced you can safely drink it! ...though I haven’t dared her! (anyone remember Libby?) Crossbow's been cheaper, and most people recommend it for Himalayan BB’s. Occasionally I'll mix the two, if going after Poison Oak as well. In days gone by I'd mix in some diesel, supposedly it helps it 'stick,' or penetrate...

My first mistake was to follow the suggestion that “you should spray it in March” - try finding 3 or 4 consecutive dry days in March ...I know, supposedly you only need a few hours for it to 'work,' but I've always noticed it more effective the drier and warmer it stayed. And that recommendation came from our Extension Service... it still may? My desire to hit it early was to avoid the not-yet-emerged indigenous 'forest plants.' But you can dodge them with direct spray and watch the wind direction for mist drift. I'm now hitting the BB’s at my convenience! It’s also been suggested I spray them in Fall, “While they're sucking in nutrients." But as far as I'm concerned they're taking in nutrition via their leaves all Summer; so why wait until they've covered more ground?

Here's what I did and learned yesterday: Their still sharp! As mentioned - even the dead ones! They're sneaky too - often running under the grass and sending up 'fruiting canes' from their hidden runners. There's always a main root nodule - but - there's likely a root at the end of each runner. Meaning, if you smugly sever their cane at its most obvious base, they can continue to feed themselves from the other end! Don't let them! The first thing I do after severing the main cane (pure satisfaction!) is drag its entire length from the trees, grass or brush until the rooted end pops out -- or I can see its not attached. Whenever I go after these things I try to wear my thickest and 'tallest' leather gloves. I've a pair designed for work on a sawmill 'green-chain;' they've extra long cuffs that guard my wrists, and extremely thick and well stitched leather to protect from fast moving slivers. Though my shorter (ordinary) leather gloves work too, I'm just a bit more careful to keep my (Goodwill military) shirt jacket sleeves buttoned up. And as mentioned... goggles or safety glasses would be wise.

Now's a great time to find and extract their runners. At the base of every rooted cane stands this years new (cane) growth - just one – but it's size denotes the roots vigor. It’s gratifying to pull them straight up and out, and they’re still fairly tender. But I use them mainly to locate the base plant, or cane. Look close around the new shoot’s base for its original cane or runner, it's there. Using thick leather gloves pull it up and follow it to the end -- where you'll likely find it's rooted again - with perhaps another new cane emerging from there! Now if it's hidden among foliage it's likely sending up fruiting canes, they look just like the base canes and sprout along the length of the previous season’s growth. Don't bother with them - you want the rooted ends! …Once you've severed them - everything in-between’s history.

It’s amazing how the cane tips will begin to turn into roots as the weather cools in Fall. Anywhere they touch the ground they’ll root! As the winter progresses this root mass continues to develop; though it’s more easy pulled up. And since they’re an ‘evergreen,’ they’re always growing – how else can they ultimately root in Madagascar?

Now I was working in the woods, if you're looking at a decades worth of dead canes, 8 feet high - with new ones on top, it’s daunting! But you've got to remove the bulk, either with a bulldozer, or the old fashioned way (by hand). You’ll be left with shoots sprouting from their roots, sending up as much new growth as they can. I'd say you've two options at this point: 1. start digging, and keep digging... I've tried it, and it works. Though I was at it this Winter... I couldn't sufficiently follow and remove their every root. 2. Let them grow, let em enjoy the next couple months of life, you too -- then nail them with spray. You've already removed their mass, so you're not hosing down acres, you're simply 'spot spraying' them, and as best you can - only them. Then kick back, having waited for a nice stretch of relatively hot & dry weather, and let Monsanto do the work... (sorry Mother...)

I'd say the second choice is sound and safe. If you use a backpack sprayer (you don't have to fill them all the way), or a squeeze-pump applicator bottle (with good water-proof gloves for either), you spray only the BB's ... unless, like me, you spot some Poison Oak (it hates Roundup)... And what do I have to show for this method? Wow -- the indigenous plants are thickening, and in many locations they've so shaded out (with help from those trees) the area the BB's can no longer flourish. Sweet success! ...But that's a couple acres down, and twenty-something more to contend with...

OK -- the Good News:

"In the spring of 2005 a very mixed blessing arrived in the Pacific Northwest. The Oregon Department of Agriculture discovered a fungal rust causing significant damage to the scourge, Himalayan blackberry, Rubus discolor. The rust was identified as Phragmidium violaceum, which was not known to occur in North America.”

“The blackberry rust is native to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Various strains of the blackberry rust exist, and each strain can cause different amounts of damage to the weedy Himalayan blackberry. The rust has been used as a biological control agent against weedy blackberry species in Australia, New Zealand, and Chile, and in some cases is very effective at killing blackberry plants.”

“Blackberry rust has been considered as a potential biological control agent for invasive blackberry species in the Pacific Northwest."

(from -

I attended a "Weed Symposium" at Pacific University (in Forest Grove) last spring - excellent! (and free!) It was confirmed: BB Rust is in the vicinity, and that it doesn’t appear to adversely effect commercial blackberries, only the big bad Himalayan's. Bad news: there's already a mutated / resistant strain in Tillamook County ... but we've got about 4 years to enjoy the demise of our current Himalayan strain - and - over plant them with trees. The Extension Agent described shade as the ultimate limiter to Himalayan Blackberries. Having noticed what appeared to me as rust infected canes in Tillamook Co., the last couple years I've brought home a pocket full of leaves to 'meet mine.' ...We'll see... though I'm not slowing up on my control efforts; 1. I don't want anymore sharp masses of dead cane; 2. mine have shown no evidence of slowing up, or being infected with anything; 3. it's in my blood - apparently rooted on the other side of the planet, I have the feeling I'll be dealing with them for the rest of my life ~

Here's some (or a lot) more info on "Rubus Armeniacus." I never knew our old pal Luther Burbank brought these weeds to America..? Win some - lose some!

"This species is an aggressive invader that was introduced for its excellent fruit and has become naturalized in many parts of the world. In the Pacific Northwest it occurs from California to British Columbia. Several scientific names have been used for this plant. In North America it has been most often called "Rubus procerus" or "Rubus discolor."

"The plant is native to Armenia and was for the first time introduced to Germany about 1835 by Booth, named 'Rubus fruticosus fr. maximo Booth' and, because of its large, sweet fruits, became the most frequently cultivated blackberry in Europe. Obviously it was introduced to America 1885 by Luther Burbank, and before 1885 to New Zealand."

(from -

"The Himalayan Blackberry is a plant that many people in North America would be surprised to learn is introduced. Its probable introduction can be traced to the late nineteenth century and linked to a man named Luther Burbank. Luther Burbank called it the Himalayan Giant because he assumed it was of Asian origin, but it is actually from Europe, thus it has retained the common name the Himalayan Blackberry. The Himalayan Blackberry now covers much of western North America, from British Columbia to California"

(from - ... blackberry)

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Thu May 24, 2007 1:03 pm

Joined: Fri Feb 09, 2007 1:21 pm
Posts: 414
Location: SW Washington
Thanks for the long post Viron, I enjoyed reading it as usual.

You got me a little concerned with your tactic of trying to spread this blackberry rust around. Isn't it also a threat to cultivated blackberries?

Fri May 25, 2007 1:57 am

Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1146
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Thanks :wink:

I'd been following its spread from the southern Oregon coast, and the fear it might tear into commercial berries, it hasn't. It was predicted to spread unchecked, if encouraged, as it has. The 'specimens' I'd brought home from Tillamook Co. (next door) were only what I suspected to be this rust, not confirmed. They may simply have been the generalized condition of leaves growing very near the ocean. Also, I didn't do a very thorough job of 'introduction' ... I sat them in the driveway where they (twice) wilted... I had mixed feelings about 'spreading it' and don’t feel as though I did.

But as predicted, it's here; it had been here, it's not harming commercial berries, and nothing could have stopped it. This 'weed' is the scourge of the Willamette Valley and it's control's long overdue. This rust, is not even listed on the state’s (Oregon) Plant Disease Alert list... I think it’s welcome by the vast majority of Oregonians.

Take a long look as you travel up "Sullivan's Gulch." (Wikipedia) "The gulch extends east from the Willamette River and originally was a forested riparian area featuring a spring-fed pool and waterfalls. Presently the gulch is a major urban transportation corridor, used by the MAX Light Rail system as well as Interstate 84 (the Banfield Expressway)."

This "Forested riparian area" is currently nothing but Himalayan blackberries. Around me, it’s been akin to war, though due to my ongoing effort of over 25 years - I'm winning. But as anyone can see... most aren’t. Personally, I've seen no adverse effect whatsoever on any local Himalayan's, Evergreens, or Pacific Dewberries. If this rust clears them out as predicted, before seed from the resistant Tillamook strain (again, right next door) brings them back, I’m told we've a small window of opportunity to shade out their habitat with more substantial, if not indigenous varieties. Here's some more info:

"The blackberry rust is native to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Various strains of the blackberry rust exist, and each strain can cause different amounts of damage to the weedy Himalayan blackberry. The rust has been used as a biological control agent against weedy blackberry species in Australia, New Zealand, and Chile, and in some cases is very effective at killing blackberry plants."

"Blackberry rust has been considered as a potential biological control agent for invasive blackberry species in the Pacific Northwest. However, there is concern about its ability to infect our desired Rubus species, such as commercial evergreen blackberry and related crops. Since its discovery in the Pacific Northwest, the Oregon Department of Agriculture and commercial growers have found the rust infecting weed and crop plants in 14 counties in Oregon and one site in Washington State.

Again - from

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Fri May 25, 2007 8:27 am

Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1146
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Here's some more info on both Blackberries; and the 'Rust' that's made its way to Oregon: Phragmidium violaceum.

Researching further I've found some interesting facts; So called "Himalayan Blackberry's" are not from "the Himalayas," They're from Armenia, or Europe; thus others (Australians) refer to them as "European Blackberries" -- I'll try to do the same.

There are several strains of this rust, the same politics that slowed its introduction to Australia has apparently been at work in Oregon; that of growers fearful of crop damage vs. an invasive weed the populous cannot control. The same thing that happened near Oregon's southern coast appears to have happened in Australia; the rust was 'illegally' introduced as a biological control agent for "European Blackberries." In Australia they hadn't released the most 'damaging' strain, though their government has now seen fit to. I haven't noticed which strain was introduced to Oregon?

Also, after viewing all the photos of "Rust" (Phragmidium violaceum) -- I've seen it around here! Not specifically on 'my property' - though I'll be looking much closer - but down and out the valley. What I haven't noticed is any major damage to the supposedly "more susceptible" young growth? Perhaps it's still early, though I'll be watching for it.

It's also interesting that the Australians have concluded there's no adverse effect on 'commercial berry crops,' though it does effect the "thornless" cultivated relatives of the "European (formerly Himalayan) Blackberry. ... Not to make this a research paper, I've have included the most interesting info & sources I've found today -- Anything in Bold will have been highlighted by me. -- And do study the growth pattern of blackberries; there's a simple depiction at the following site*

Finally, my (favorite) Uncle's grown berries for decades (anyone tasted 'Nectar berries?'), as I regularly tour his canes it's amazing to learn the ways of 'blackberries,' nurtured and propagated on purpose ... as I secretly plan the demise of mine...

Blackberry growth pattern:
"Blackberry has a two year growth pattern. First year canes emerge from the root crowns in spring and grow quickly to the top of the existing canopy, eventually arching towards the ground (Figure 3). Having reached the ground, these canes produce buds and roots at their tips (daughter plants) in autumn, which lie dormant over winter. In the following spring, the daughter plants become crowns and sprout new canes."

"Every spring, flowering canes grow in the axils of the old leaves of those canes which have overwintered (second year canes), producing flowers, fruit and seed. In winter, the second year canes die back to the crown, leaving independent daughter plants. A blackberry bramble consists of live first and second year canes plus dead material from previous years."

Phragmidium violaceum (blackberry leaf rust):

Origin of blackberry leaf rust
"The blackberry leaf rust fungus is a very specific natural enemy of blackberry. It is commonly found where blackberry originates, throughout Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Studies were undertaken in Europe in the early 1980s to assess its safety for use as a biological control agent in Australia. This research demonstrated that Phragmidium violaceum is specific to the European blackberry and does not damage native species of Rubus or varieties of commercial raspberry and brambleberry such as loganberry and youngberry, but could damage some varieties of thornless blackberry which are hybrids of the European blackberry."

"Permission was sought to introduce a number of more highly damaging strains of the rust to Australia, but in 1984 the project came to an abrupt halt when the rust was discovered as an illegal introduction in southern Victoria. The "illegal" rust spread quickly throughout south-eastern Australia. Subsequent studies have shown that it is far less damaging to the predominant blackberry species in south-eastern Australia than the strains first selected in Europe."

"Permission to introduce the more damaging strains was rejected in 1986 because of objections from people who considered blackberry useful. In August 1990 the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service allowed Victorian scientists to release one of the damaging strains, which had been kept frozen in Europe since 1983."

"Blackberry leaf rust fungus is a defoliating disease which attacks the leaves and is also found on flower buds, unripe fruit and the green parts of growing canes."

"The rust appears as characteristic purple-brown blotches, 2 to 3 mm in diameter, on the upper surface of the leaf (Figs. 1 and 2). Corresponding yellow or black powdery pustules of spores appear on the lower surface of the leaf. Heavily infected leaves turn brown, shrivel and fall from the canes."

Life cycle
"The rust undergoes a sexual cycle on new blackberry leaves in spring involving three spore types (Fig. 4). The golden summer spores first appear in early November, have several generations on young leaves and reach epidemic level by flowering time. Summer spores germinate in the presence of moisture and infect the blackberry when the germ tube enters the leaf through the stomata (breathing pores), found only on the lower surface of blackberry leaves. Leaf age affects the level of infection, with the most susceptible leaves being the youngest, fully opened leaves at the cane tips."

"Summer spores are microscopic and carried by air currents, spreading the infection to other leaves, canes and plants. They have a generation time of 8 to 10 days. In late summer and throughout autumn, the pustules produce black, sticky, over-wintering spores. These remain attached to any remaining leaves on the brambles and, when mature, are responsible for starting the next cycle of rusting on new spring leaves."

* ... AD52F?open

Rust Images etc... Here's a series of images -- the better ones are further down the list:

Another good Phragmidium violaceum site:

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Sat May 26, 2007 9:25 am
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