One of my favorite wild fruits to pick and eat is raspberries. Folks have used them for jams and jellies for ages. The most common raspberry in our area is the native black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis). Its most prominent identifying feature of the plant is the thorny branches that will get your attention when you run into them in old fields, roadsides, fence rows, and woodland edges where they like to grow.
The stems of the raspberry (called canes) usually grow in an arching fashion and appear to have white powder on them. The flowers of all brambles (including blackberries) are white with five petals, and usually bloom in late April to early May. Raspberry leaves usually appear in threes, but may also be in clusters of 4-7. The fruit forms in June and starts out green, then go from red, then purple, and finally black when ripe. This color transition is called “pre-ripening fruit flagging”, and serves as a signal to animals that fruit is about to ripen, encouraging them to stay in the area and feed. These benefits the plant by upping the chances of getting seeds dispersed.
Besides jelly, the fruit can be made into juice or wine, and in times past has been used to treat stomach ailments such a diarrhea. The root of the raspberry has been used as an astringent (causes the contraction of tissue) because of a high tannin content. In some areas of Appalachia, a tea made from the roots is used to stop secretions. A tea made from the bark of wild raspberry root has been used to control dysentery, and the dried leaves can be used to make a vitamin rich tea.
There is an introduced raspberry (native to Japan) that can also be found growing wild in old fields and woodland edges and roadsides called wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius). This one has canes covered with thick red hairs, and the berries, which ripen later in the summer, are dull red when ripe and are twice as big as the black raspberry.