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Arctic Bramble

Rubus arcticus

  • Name also: Arctic Raspberry, Nagoonberry (British Columbia)
  • Family: Rose Family – Rosaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rhizomatous.
  • Height: 10–25 cm (4–10 in.). Stem glossy, spineless. Lacks runners.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), pink–purple (occasionally white), 15–25 mm (0.6–1 in.) broad; petals usually 6–9. Calyx 6–9-lobed. Stamens many. Gynoecium separate, pistils several. Flowers solitary–in pairs.
  • Leaves: Alternate, stalked, stipulate. Blade palmate, with 3 leaflets. Terminal leaflet diamond-shaped, lateral leaflets round-edged, unsymmetrical, all leaflets with toothed margins, at least sparsely hairy, often reddish.
  • Fruit: Brownish purplish red, aromatic, sweet aggregate of drupes.
  • Habitat: Damp meadows, banks, flood-influenced swamps, peaty forests, shore-side broad-leaved forests, river banks.
  • Flowering time: (May–)June–July.

Many people regard arctic bramble as the best wild Finnish berry. This ruby-red fruit’s aristocratically fine aroma has been praised in many a connoisseur’s mouth. Even Carl von Linné’s scientific description of the berry begins with a section praising the excellence of the fruit. Arctic bramble does not store too well fresh because the stalk doesn’t separate from the berry in such a way that it could be stored intact. It is traditionally made into jam, juice and nectar. Demand for the berry as a base for wine and liqueur is seemingly endless.

Arctic bramble is not actually as much of an arctic plant as its name suggests. The largest crop is harvested from central Finland: it is most common in the zone between northern Karelia, central Ostrobothnia and central Lapland. In undisturbed forest it grows in rich swamps, grove-like shore-side forests and broad-leaved forests, but traditional agriculture, with its open ditches, shore margins and field rotation provided it with many other places to grow. Intensive agriculture and forestry leads to more damp and semi-open meadows being either ploughed into fields or abandoned to become forest. With the decrease in suitable habitats the species has become correspondingly rarer in the wild.

Arctic bramble often forms stands consisting of a single plant. These produce a poor crop of berries as the plant’s own nectar is not enough to fertilise it – in such cases pollen from its close relative stone bramble (R. saxatilis) is good enough. The resulting hybrid (R. x castoreus) can even be as common as its parent plants in Lapland. Compared to arctic bramble the hybrid is larger and sturdier in every way, and its flowers are bigger. The hybrid’s flowers are a very impressive rose red on the edges of bogs and in damp forests, but no fruit develops: the hope is that (R. x binatus) would have arctic bramble’s good points but prove easier to cultivate and provide a more reliable crop for the liqueur and preservative industries. Many refined varieties of the species are also cultivated.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family
Trees and bushes from the same family

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