Blackberry Varieties

Blackberry Varieties -

Commercial cultivation

  • Black Butte blackberry - Oregon is the leading commercial blackberry producer in the world, producing 42.6 million pounds on 6,180 acres (25.0 km2), in 1995 and 56.1 million pounds on 7,000 acres (28 km2) in 2009. Numerous cultivars have been selected for commercial and amateur cultivation in Europe and the United States. Since the many species form hybrids easily, there are numerous cultivars with more than one species in their ancestry.
  • ‘Marion’ (marketed as “marionberry”) is an important cultivar that was selected from seedlings from a cross between ‘Chehalem’ and ‘Olallie’ (commonly called “olallieberry”) berries. ‘Olallie’ in turn is a cross between loganberry and youngberry. ‘Marion’, ‘Chehalem’ and ‘Olallie’ are just three of many trailing blackberry cultivars developed by the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) blackberry breeding program at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon.
  • The most recent cultivars released from this program are the prickle-free cultivars ‘Black Diamond’, ‘Black Pearl’ and ‘Nightfall’ as well as the very early ripening ‘Obsidian’ and ‘Metolius’. ‘Black Diamond’ is now the leading cultivar being planted in the Pacific Northwest. Some of the other cultivars from this program are ‘Waldo’, ‘Siskiyou’, ‘Black Butte’, ‘Kotata’, ‘Pacific’ and ‘Cascade’.
  • Trailing blackberries are vigorous, crown forming, require a trellis for support, and are less cold hardy than the erect or semi-erect blackberries. In addition to the United States’ Pacific Northwest, these types do well in similar climates such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Chile, and the Mediterranean countries.
  • Semi-erect, prickle-free blackberries were first developed at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, and subsequently by the USDA-ARS in Beltsville, Maryland. These are crown forming, very vigorous, and need a trellis for support. Cultivars include ‘Black Satin’ ‘Chester Thornless’, ‘Dirksen Thornless’, ‘Hull Thornless’, ‘Loch Ness’, ‘Loch Tay’, ‘Merton Thornless’, ‘Smoothstem’ and ‘Triple Crown’. Recently, the cultivar ‘Cacanska Bestrna’ (also called ‘Cacak Thornless’) has been developed in Serbia and has been planted on many thousands of hectares there.
  • The University of Arkansas has developed cultivars of erect blackberries. These types are less vigorous than the semi-erect types and produce new canes from root initials (therefore they spread underground like raspberries). There are prickly and prickle-free cultivars from this program, including ‘Navaho’, ‘Ouachita’, ‘Cherokee’, ‘Apache’, ‘Arapaho’ and ‘Kiowa’. They are also responsible for developing the primocane fruiting blackberries such as ‘Prime-Jan’ and ‘Prime-Jim’.
  • In raspberries, these types are called primocane fruiting, fall fruiting, or everbearing. ‘Prime-Jim’ and ‘Prime-Jan’ were released in 2004 and are the first cultivars of primocane fruiting blackberry. They grow much like the other erect cultivars described above, however the canes that emerge in the spring, will flower in mid-summer and fruit in late summer or fall. The fall crop has its highest quality when it ripens in cool mild climate such as in California or the Pacific Northwest.
  • ‘Illini Hardy’ a semi-erect prickly cultivar introduced by the University of Illinois is cane hardy in zone 5, where traditionally blackberry production has been problematic, since canes often failed to survive the winter.
  • Blackberry production in Mexico has expanded enormously in the past decade. While once based on the cultivar ‘Brazos’, an old erect blackberry cultivar developed in Texas in 1959, the Mexican industry is now dominated by the Brazilian ‘Tupi’ released in the 1990s. ‘Tupi’ has the erect blackberry ‘Comanche’ and a “wild Uruguayan blackberry” as parents. Since there are no native blackberries in Uruguay, the suspicion is that the widely grown ‘Boysenberry’ is the male parent. In order to produce these blackberries in regions of Mexico where there is no winter chilling to stimulate flower bud development, chemical defoliation and application of growth regulators are used to bring the plants into bloom.


A number of blackberry cultivars are available for domestic gardens. The cultivars ‘Fantasia’, ‘Loch Ness’ and ‘Silvan’ have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

When it comes to your personal garden of blackberries there is a few considerations you should make like, what kind of blackberries you would want to highlight your beautiful garden. There three main categories of blackberries are trailing, erect, and semi erect blackberries. The main difference between the three is the growth habit of their canes.

Trailing Blackberries

  • The quality of the trailing blackberries is considered to be exceptional, with a very good smell and small seeds. Their fruiting season ranges from June to early September, depending on the gardener. The trailing blackberry has the least tolerance to cold temperatures among the three types. It is likely that these berries will suffer some damage when temperatures go below 13 F or -11 C in December or early January. The plants are also more sensitive in much more warmer temperatures during fall and late winter when its above 20 F or -7 C. The trailing blackberries can be grown in colder areas with low winter rainfall if you leave the canes in the ground and mulch them in the winter. The thornless boysen blackberry is very large and sweet. The most common use for them is in jams, pastries, juices, syrups and wines. The boysenberry is very large, dull, soft and succulent. The Boysen is categorized as to have a distinctive, rich, tangy flavor which is very aromatic. The black butte blackberry is very large and rich in flavor. They are the most common berry in home gardens and markets.

Erect Blackberries

  • Erect blackberries produce stiff, erect canes that need both summer and winter pruning. Their fruit is glossy and firm, with a milder aroma and flavor to the trailing blackberries. The seeds are also larger than the trailing blackberries. Their fruiting season begins from early July to frost, depending on the particular type of berry. The apache blackberries are a type of erect blackberries that are thornless and sweet. They are a popular type of berry to grow and harvest for the more experienced gardener. The arapaho blackberries are thornless, and disease resistant blackberries that have an particularly sweet flavor. The arapaho berry is a firm, average sized berry that is mass produced.

Semi-Erect Blackberries

  • The semi-erect blackberry produces strong, thick arching canes that benefit from summer and winter pruning. An example of the semi erect blackberry is the Triple Crown which is a large, glossy back berry with high yield. These berries yield from approximately July 10th to August 10 in most areas. They are commonly found on berry farms, pick-your-own operations and home gardens. These berries are good for juices, pies, syrups and preserves.  Another example is the Loch-ness blackberry. This berry was raised in a Scottish Crop research Institute and has different growth patterns to the standard semi-erect blackberry.

Growing Blackberries

  • Blackberries grow in the cool months of spring, not the hot months of summer. Additionally, they require full sun; this means that they must get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day. Since they grow on canes, it is important to remove any dried ones, or canes that have already grown fruit. This ensures that healthy canes are available for growing season. When growing blackberries, it is recommended to build a trellis. A two-wire trellis that is 5 feet high and 18 inches apart will allow the new fruit to grow on top of the developing canes – making it easier to harvest the fruit. Right before the cold climate in the winter, remove any shoots that grew within 2 feet, and trim the taller ones down to 12-15 inches.
  • When taking care of blackberries, it is important to fertilize them in either the late winter or early spring – before they come out of dormancy. To fertilize, apply ¼ pound of actual nitrogen to the soil each year. Since blackberries have very deep roots, they require deep watering every day, and more frequently when they are fruiting. To help keep the plants moist, apply a good mulch on top.
  • Blackberries are ready to be picked when they change from a red color to a purple colour. At first, only a few berries will ripen, but, eventually, they will have to be picked every other day. After harvesting, chop the plants down to the ground to lessen the chance of diseases and pests. Finally, new canes will grow in the fall for the next growing season.
st. patrick's day bento
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