Long arching prickly stems root where they touch the ground. Seed spread in bird droppings, mean they can appear in most places, usually from below hedgerows, shrubs and trees where the birds perch. The mature plant stems can reach 3 metres, with about four or five arising from a root. The picture includes a seedling showing the immature leaves, older leaves have three to five, oval toothed leaflets with prickles on the back of the petiole and centre vein. They are arranged alternately on the thorny stem. The backward facing thorns are the means by which the stems cling on as they grow through bushes and trees - and ruin many knitted swetters
The leaves contain tannins giving them astringent properties so have been used to staunch diarrhoea, made into a fragrant tea which can be taken for coughs, colds and flu, also they have antiseptic and antifungal effects. The bark and roots have more of the tannins so can be dried for use a decoction (100g dried product in 500ml water, then 50ml every 2 hours for diarrhoea). Chewing the shoot-tips is said to be a remedy for indigestion.
The white, pink
or purple flowers with five petals, appear from May to September on second year stems and the purple-black berries ripen from September to October. The stems which have borne fruit die, but are replaced by new ones which have been developing through the season to bear fruit the following year. Apart from eating them straight from the plant, the blackberries can be baked in a pie or to make jam which is best strained to remove the pips.
Stout gloves with leather palms are a necessity for handling brambles. Young plants have one or two stems which are relatively easy to root out completely. Older plants have many stems, some of them dead, and can be difficult to dig up, especially when situated at the base of a hedge. A mattock is a useful tool for getting them out, or in close proximity to shrubs and hedges a spike driven down and wriggled about should loosen the roots sufficiently to allow the bramble to be pulled out. The deep, woody roots can regenerate when the main clump is removed, so check later for new shoots. Continual pulling or close mowing will kill them eventually. Also check the end of arching stems which may have taken root and if pulled from afar, may leave a small rooted fragment behind.
Use a stronger concentration of a systemic herbicide, eg. Gylphosate in Bayer garden tree stump killer, Growing success Deep Root ultra and Roundup Tree stump and Root killer, or a selective herbicide in Vitax SBK Brushwood killer.
Follow these links for further details on Weeds, Weed Removal and Weed Prevention.