Common Name: Wineberry, Japanese Wineberry, Wine Raspberry
Scientific Name: Rubus phoenicolasius
Family: Rosacaceae (the Rose family)
Many people living in the eastern U.S. have seen this plant without knowing it, because it is often mistaken for the wild blackberry or raspberry plant. To be honest, people who know of Wineberry either love it or hate it. It is used as an ornamental and is grown for its delicious berries, but, this plant is viewed as a weed and invasive in many parts of the eastern U.S. and Europe. If you are not a fan of Wineberry, it doesn’t much matter as it is not going anywhere soon. Instead of trying to eradicate it with toxic chemicals, we can use it as a supplemental feed for browsing animals, and we can use its sweet fruits for ourselves.
Native and widespread in Asia (China, Korea, and Japan). It was introduced into the U.S. in 1890 (at least) to be used for breeding programs with raspberries/blackberries and as an ornamental. It “escaped” and has spread through eastern North America becoming so well established that it is often considered invasive. Wineberry is still used today in berry breeding programs.
- Wineberry berries are not technically a berry, they are considered an aggregate fruit, just like raspberries and blackberries.
- Wineberry’s stems are covered in reddish hairs (rather thorny) that make the stems appear red from a distance. This was a main contributor to its ornamental appeal. The Latin name phoenicolasius is derived from phoenicus which is Latin for red.
- It was once thought that the Wineberry was a partially carnivorous plant. The developing berries are covered in a bristly calyx that produce a sticky fluid. Insects are often caught in this fluid, but research has shown that the plant does not digest the insects.
USING THIS PLANT
- Fresh eating – many claim to like Wineberries better than raspberries, but others believe there are too many seeds for the size of fruit. When fully ripe, it has a flavor of mostly raspberry with a bit of strawberry.
- Cooked – used as raspberries or blackberries. Pies, tarts, cobblers, jams, preserves, etc.
- Alcohol – should be a great primary or adjuct juice for wines, beers, and liquors.
- Ornamental Plant – the red stems are rather pretty in the Autumn and Winter
- Pioneer Plant –
- Wildlife Shelter – birds and small mammals take shelter in the brambles.
- Hedge Plant – large animals (4 and 2 legged) have a hard time traversing a hedge of Wineberry. Could be used/encouraged as a planted barrier/fencing.
- Wildlife Food – birds, mammals, and some reptiles enjoy the fruits (and therefore spread the seeds!)
- Browse Plant – while I would not plant this specifically for browse (i.e. food for goats, sheep, etc.), if you have it on your property, it can be used for this purpose. There is research from Wisconsin that shows cattle will graze, and may prefer, foraging on brambles.
- Can be used for dye (purple/blue).
Harvesting: Berries are produced in early Summer to early Autumn.
Storage: Use fresh. Can be frozen (individually on a cookie sheet is best, then stored in a freeze bag). Can be dehydrated. Use within a few days at most.
DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT
AHS Heat Zone: 8-1
Chill Requirement: Likely considering where this plant originates, but no reliable information is available.
Plant Type: Small Shrub
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Shub Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: While interbred with blackberries and raspberries, the Japanese Wineberry has not been improved much in the U.S. as it is often considered an invasive, although it was cultivated in Asia. There are some named varieties.
Pollination: Self-fertile. Pollinated by insects.
Flowering: Late Spring to early Summer (May-June)
- Years to Begin Fruiting: 2 years
- Years of Useful Life: No good information available, but as this plant produces on second year growth and spreads so easily via root buds and new canes, an individual’s life span is likely irrelevant.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT
Growth Rate: Fast
GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT
Shade: Tolerates light to moderate shade, but likely produces more fruit with more sun
Moisture: Prefers moist to wet soils, but can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions
pH: Tolerates a wide range of soil conditions
Special Considerations for Growing:
Wineberry produces fruit on second year growth. Here is how it works: New growth originates from the root as a single, non-woody, non-branching stem called a primocane. That primocane will grow to full height, but it does not put out any side shoots, and it doesn’t produce any flowers. Come the second year, the stem becomes woody and is now called a floricane. The floricane does not grow taller, but it will now produce side stems or shoots. These side shoots will produce clusters of flowers on a structure called a racime. These flowers will then yield the Wineberry’s berries.
Seed – easily. Requires cold stratification for 4-16 weeks. Layering with tips is commonly used – new plants grow from the tips of canes that touch the ground. Can be divided in Spring.
It is important to cut out and remove the old, fruiting stems (floricanes) after fruiting. This is typically done when the plant goes dormant in late Autmn or Winter. This allows the plant to move nutrients from the leaves and stems into the roots. However, it can be done right ater harvest if the plants are showing a lot of disease.
- Listed as a “noxious weed” in many locations. Connecticut and Massachusettes have banned Wineberry.
- Spreads easily through seed (birds are a major factor) and vegetative growth.
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