The Dirty Dozen vs the Birdy Dozen
What is a Native?
A native plant is one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without direct or indirect human intervention. We consider the flora present at the time Europeans arrived in North America as the species native to the eastern United States. Native plants include all kinds of plants from mosses and ferns to wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.
Because native plants are adapted to the growing conditions where you live, they are often easier to grow, and less susceptible to challenging conditions than non-native plants. Many Non-native plants are also invasive, and threaten out our native plant species.
Purple Flowering Rasberry
Purple-flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) is a perfect addition to native gardens that have some room to spare. This beautiful, fast-growing, long-lived shrub grows 3-6’ high and up to 12’ wide. It begins flowering in June and keeps going strong for most of the summer. The large maple-shaped leaves provide a beautiful backdrop for the stunning pinkish-purple blooms and reddish-purple berries. The stems are hairy, but there are no thorns!
Since purple-flowering raspberry is somewhat self-fertile, a single shrub will produce some fruit, but two or three will produce more abundant fruit. Most humans find the berries rather tart, but they are very popular with songbirds, game birds, and other wildlife. Many pollinators including butterflies and bees are attracted to the flowers and their sweet nectar. Purple-flowering raspberry is host plant for the Lettered Habrosyne or Scribe Moth (Habrosyne scripta), and some native bees prefer the leaves of Rubus for nesting material.
Purple-flowering raspberry is an enthusiastic (Some would say aggressive, but that’s such a negative word for such a positive plant) suckering shrub. If left unchecked, it will form a large thicket in the right conditions. But if you must tame the beautiful beast, you can prune after fruiting is over. It’s a great native plant for woodland gardens and restoration projects, and its matted roots and rhizomes can stabilize banks. This shrub prefers average, medium moisture, well-drained soil in part shade to full sun. It will grow in sandy soil, but not clay or saturated soil which will cause root and crown rot. If you want to hasten the growth of your colony, there are several ways to speed up the process. You can gather the berries after they ripen (and before the critters get them), but the scarification and stratification required for seed propagation is rather complex. The good news is that the shrubs provide numerous suckers which transplant easily. If you don’t have a free source for seeds or suckers, this shrub seems to be widely available in nurseries as bare root or potted plants.
If you’re looking for an easy to grow, long blooming shrub to attract birds, support a large variety of insects, and cover ground quickly – your search is over! Purple-flowering raspberry is your botanical dream come true!
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Article and photo courtesy of Karen Smith
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