The wild Blackberries are fruiting early in the district this year. This familiar straggling plant has something of a love-hate relationship with most people who come across it: in late summer it provides sweet, black-bubbled berries which revitalise the parched palate of a rambler and sit well in an apple pie, but for the rest of the year it is a long stemmed unruly and viciously prickly menace which often bars our way on the footpath or forms an impenetrable cage around the wayward golf ball. Little wonder that the Ancient Britons planted it as an early form of barbed wire fencing.
Today we may see the wild Blackberry just about anywhere, from golf course to woodland, country footpath to urban waste ground. For city dwellers it is just a weed, but for those of us who love our native plants and their history, there is something very special about the wild Blackberry, otherwise known as the Bramble. The term Bramble was originally used to describe any unruly thorny plant, but the Blackberry has taken the name as its own, and appropriately so, for it is rebellious, untameable and quintessentially wild.
Throughout our history it has been common practice for local people to go out into the countryside and pick wild berries, particularly wild Blackberries, in ignorance of the wildlife which needs Nature’s summer bounty to survive through winter. In the days of yore there was perhaps a surplus in good years, and people didn’t care much for wildlife anyway: wild animals were a nuisance, a threat, or simply something to eat.
In fact an astonishingly wide range of animals rely on wild Blackberry plants for food, including caterpillars, which feed on the leaves, and butterflies and bees which take nectar from the flowers. When the berries ripen, all kinds of birds and insects, together with mammals like dormice, squirrels, hedgehogs and even badgers come to feed on them.
BridgeNature.org reiterates once more our view that in modern Britain, where wildlife is suffering massive decline through shortage of habitat and food supply, we should all buy cultivated fruits from farm shops or supermarkets and leave wild fruits and nuts out in the wild for those creatures who need them more than we do.
Picking from the wild is stealing from the wild!