Blog

Plant ID: Himalayan Blackberry vs. Salmonberry Shrubs

Last Saturday, I did some invasive species removal with the Stanley Park Eco-Stewards. We removed Himalayan blackberry from some sites that had previously been cleared of invasive species and replanted with salmonberry shrubs. Because Himalayan blackberry is such a persistent plant – it, along with English ivy, is one of the most aggressive invasive species in Stanley Park – there were several spots in which it had grown back.

One of the most helpful things I learned during this eco-stewardship session was how to tell the difference between a Himalayan blackberry shrub and a salmonberry shrub – we wouldn’t want to be digging up the native salmonberry vegetation, after all! I’ll share with you some of the plant identification tips I learned.

Have a look at the picture below. It contains a Himalayan blackberry branch and a salmonberry branch converging with each other. Can you tell which is which?

Can you guess which branch belongs to a salmonberry shrub and which belongs to a Himalayan blackberry shrub?

If you guessed blackberry on the left and salmonberry on the right, you are correct! If not, don’t worry – let’s walk through it together.

First, let’s look at the colour and texture of the branches. The blackberry branch is green and thorny. The salmonberry branch is brown and smooth (Wild Berries of British Columbia tells me that younger salmonberry branches are prickly, and then they shed their prickles as they get older... I'll have to start paying more attention to these things!).

BRANCHES: notice the prickly green blackberry branch on the left versus the smoother brown salmonberry branch on the right.

Secondly, notice the leaf pattern of each. Himalayan blackberry leaves tend to consist of 5 leaflets, each of which round and then end in a point. Salmonberry leaves have three leaflets that are more angular in shape:

LEAVES: A Himalayan blackberry leaf (left) vs. a salmonberry leaf (right).

A good trick that Ivy, our Stewardship Coordinator, taught us: if you fold down the top leaflet of a salmonberry leaf, you get a butterfly!

 A salmonberry-leaf butterfly!

A salmonberry-leaf butterfly!

Try the same trick with a blackberry leaf, and here’s what you get:

 Not quite a butterfly.

Not quite a butterfly.

It’s useful to note that there are exceptions to these identification rules. I’ve certainly seen some salmonberry branches (I think they are, at least!) that are green…

 Green salmonberry branches

Green salmonberry branches

… some Himalayan blackberry canes that are reddish…

 Red Himalayan blackberry branch

Red Himalayan blackberry branch

… and some Himalayan blackberry leaves that have three leaflets (though note that the overall leaflet shape is much rounder than that of a salmonberry leaflet):

 

 A Himalayan blackberry leaf with three leaflets

A Himalayan blackberry leaf with three leaflets

But hopefully sticking with the aforementioned guidelines will help you to identify these shrubs. Happy plant ID-ing! For those readers with a little more nature expertise, please let me know in the comments if I've made any mistakes.