As my wife and I walked through the Virginia woods in Shenandoah National Park last week I realized once again, that I knew less than I thought about a familiar genus – Rubus, a member of the Rosaceae family of related genera. My favorite is Rubus occidentalis, the black raspberry, a few quarts-worth of which my wife picks each year from our backyard in June: Its earthy sweetness is unparalleled. Rubus odoratus, the purple-flowered raspberry, is seen in the ornamental trade and is fairly common in Ohio woodlands.
Then there are the hybrids and cultivars of commercial red raspberries and blackberries, wonderfully toothsome, though some people dislike their seediness. The list goes on much longer than I imagined, with literally hundreds of species of Rubus worldwide, including loganberries and boysenberries. Back to that Skyline Drive trail, unarmed with this subsequent knowledge of Rubus diversity, we came upon what we guessed was a wild red raspberry, though something looked a little different.
We ate some, probably not the best idea in general, but...They were juicy and tart, deeelicious as Seinfeld’s Kramer would say. They have a hard to describe luminescent orange-red color. They have totally cool calyxes covered with red hairs that are prominent before the berry is unveiled; once picked they leave behind little orange crowns. Way beautiful.
We were eating…wineberries (Rubus phoenicolasius), introduced to the U.S. from Japan in 1890 for raspberry breeding. And, as pointed out by the U.S. Forest Service sites we read the evening after – invasive; in some cases replacing native vegetation with dense, shrubby patches.
That is the deal with invasive species. They always bring you up short, short of knowledge, short of perspective. Though, now that I know this species a little better, having gone from discovery of their beauty and tastiness in the day to measured awareness of some of their negatives by night. Nature, the journey continues…
…And, after all, we did our part, eating future wineberry invasives. Controlling invasives, one bite at a time.