The Enchanting Purple-Flowering Raspberry

Adapted from our eNews

July 2023

Rubus odoratus is a long-blooming, thornless raspberry with striking magenta flowers. Commonly known as purple-flowering raspberry, this shrub has large (up to 10 in wide), maple-shaped leaves that are a fresh bright green color and soft to the touch. Its fragrant flowers, which bloom in June and July, can easily be mistaken for wild roses at a passing glance. Like roses, they have a mass of dense yellow anthers at their center that are an excellent source of pollen for many insects, including at-risk bumblebee species. These blossoms are somewhat self-fertile, so a single bush will still produce some fruit. These red berries are flatter and rounder than a cultivated raspberry, but still tasty and quite popular with birds and mammals (including humans!). Plants in the genus Rubus are also valuable host plants, supporting the caterpillars of over 150 species of moths and butterflies, which means they can be an excellent food source for birds before and after the berries are gone.

Though it is typically found growing wild in moist forests, purple-flowering raspberry will thrive in a wide range of conditions in a garden setting. It is quite shade tolerate, but also grows well in full sun with moist to average soil. Its fuzzy, arching stems reach 3 - 4 ft tall and sucker to form a mounded colony 4 - 8 ft wide. Unlike most raspberry/ blackberry species, whose second-year canes die after they flower and fruit, R. odoratus canes will continue to grow and bloom for 3 - 4 years. Like other Rubus species, this is a vigorous plant that should be put in a spot where it will have room to spread. Given this aggressive habit and its broad leaves, it will outcompete shorter plants, and can be used to shade out weeds.

Purple-flowering raspberry is an enchanting addition to any landscape not only for its eye-catching looks but for the steady flow of buzzing and fluttering life that it will attract.