[The Blackberries and Brambles of the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon and Washington]

Thimbleberry

Rubus parviflorus

Synonym: Rubus parviflorus var. parviflorus

Flower and leaves of Thimbleberry: Rubus parviflorus (Synonym: Rubus parviflorus var. parviflorus)

Characteristics:

Thimbleberry is an attractive, upright shrub from 0.5-2.5 meters in height. The stems have a dull brown, shedding bark, and unlike other members of the genus, they lack stickers. The large, simple leaves with palmate venation are alternate on the stems. The margins have 5 lobes cut up to 1/3 of the way into the leaf. The margins are also toothed. The leaves vary from 6-15 cm in length, and tend to be somewhat wider than long. The leaves are covered with short hairs which give them a soft, felt-like texture.

The large flowers are up to 2.5 cm across, with 5 white (occasionally pink-tinged) petals which are oblong-obovate to obovate in shape and may be up to 30 mm long. The pistils and stamens are numerous. The scarlet fruits are fleshy berries with many seeds which separate from their pith in a thimble or hemispherical shape.


Importance:

The thimble-like fruits are like soft, fuzzy raspberries, and are often eaten by campers. Songbirds, upland gamebirds, and many mammals also eat the fruits. The leaves and twigs are grazed by browsers such as deer. The leaves are an excellent forest toilet paper. Thimbleberry is often found in thickets where it provides excellent protection and nesting for birds.


Ripening fruit of Thimbleberry: Rubus parviflorus (Synonym: Rubus parviflorus var. parviflorus)

The photo above shows a close-up of the scarlet fruit of the thimbleberry.

Habitat:

Thimbleberry may be found on open moist or dry sites. It is commonly found along roadsides, on logged slopes, along the edges of forests, and along streams. It may be found from the Pacific coast to subalpine habitats in the mountains.


Range:

Thimbleberry may be found from Alaska south to southern California and east to the Great Lakes.

In the Columbia River Gorge, it may be found between the elevations of 100'-4900' from the west end of the gorge to as far east as The Dalles, OR.


Dorsal leaf surface of Thimbleberry: Rubus parviflorus (Synonym: Rubus parviflorus var. parviflorus) Ventral leaf surface of Thimbleberry: Rubus parviflorus (Synonym: Rubus parviflorus var. parviflorus)

Dorsal and ventral views of the leaf of the thimbleberry.

Thimbleberry: Rubus parviflorus (Synonym: Rubus parviflorus var. parviflorus)

Palmately compound leaf of thimbleberry as seen along the McCord Creek Trail in the western Columbia River Gorge...........May 30, 2009.

Flower of Thimbleberry: Rubus parviflorus (Synonym: Rubus parviflorus var. parviflorus)

Close-up of a flower of thimbleberry (along with a visiting hover fly, Syrphus sp.) as seen along the McCord Creek Trail in the western Columbia River Gorge...........May 30, 2009. The petals are often wrinkled as seen and are generally white, although I have occasionally seen some that are pink-tinged.

Paul Slichter