The Double Cone Quarterly
Window to the Wilderness
Winter Solstice 2000 || Volume III, Number 2


Rubus parviflorus Nuttall

by David Rogers © 2000

Thimbleberry in flower along the
Salmon Creek Trail.
Photograph by Boon Hughey, © 2000

These semi-shrubby plants with large leaves, relatively large white flowers and thimble-shaped fruits are widespread and locally common along streams and in other mostly shady and generally moist habitats in the Santa Lucia Mountains, and a bit less restricted in habitat nearer to the coast. Although this species belongs to the genus Rubus (of Rosaceae, the Rose Family), which includes the blackberries and raspberries, thimbleberries possess a number of characteristics that are unlike those of more typical Rubus species. Such features include the thornless and non-thicket building stems and the large deciduous leaves that are not divided into leaflets.

Thimbleberries have generally erect stems that range from about 1 to 2 m. (3.3-6.6') tall. The leaves are alternate and have petioles that are about 2 to 12 cm. long, while the blades, which are about 10 to 15 or more cm. wide, are roundish to deltoid in outline and palmately five-lobed. The margins are irregularly serrate. The showy flowers are produced singularly or in groups on terminal corymbs or cymes, and the corollas consist of five white (or sometimes pinkish-tinged) elliptic to obovate petals about 15 to 30 mm. long. Thimbleberry fruits strongly resemble raspberries, for they consist of hemispheric aggregations of drupelets about 1 to 1.5 cm. wide that become raspberry-red to orangish-red in maturity. The flowers may begin to bloom as early as March and some may open as late as August, and the fruits mature at an appropriate time thereafter.

Rubus parviflorus is widely distributed in subarctic and temperate regions of North America, with a broad east to west northern terminus that extends from Alaska to eastern Canada. Southward the species becomes restricted to the Rocky Mountains and the mountains and coastal regions of the Pacific Slope, and reaches its most southern points of distribution in New Mexico and southern California (in San Diego Co.).

Rubus parviflorus with ripening berries.

This Charles Webber photograph is from the Virtual Library Project of U. C. Berkeley, and belongs to the California Academy of Sciences.

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