Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • European Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus aggregate), a Weed of National Significance, is a long lived, sprawling, mound-forming, fast growing shrub to 2-3 metres tall impacting on agriculture, forestry and natural ecosystems.
  • It forms dense stands in native bush and paddocks forestry and production areas in cool to warm temperate areas, flowering in late spring summer and producing blackberry fruits in summer.
  • Seeds, usually identical to the mother plant, are spread by birds, animals and water, with established clumps rooting from cane tips each year also resulting in new plants.
  • In Australia, Blackberry is an aggregate of up to 20 micro-species which all look very similar but react differently to herbicides and control measures.
  • Physical and chemical control over  time can help control blackberries.
  • Care is needed not to impact on the Blackberry fruit industry as well as native species of Rubus.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

European Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus aggregate) are a group of introduced species of Rubus (blackberries) from Europe. European Blackberries are perennial sprawling shrubs often forming mounds that are partially herbaceous (above-ground parts dying back to ground level, re-growing from perennial growing point known as a crown), to persistent evergreen (not dying back to ground level, retaining stems and leaves year round).

First years growth or primo-canes (vegetative only stems) can persist, and leaves are evergreen to semi-evergreen (partially deciduous loosing some leaves), or fully deciduous (loosing all leaves), rarely with canes that are fully herbaceous (dying to ground level) in unfavourable cold conditions. First year primo-canes (vegetative only stems) are arched to trailing, erect or semi-erect up to 7 metres long. First year primo-canes (vegetative only stems) are usually distinctly angled, the faces of the angles furrowed or flat, and the angles usually bearing robust prickles, stem rarely without prickles. These canes are mostly reddish-purple where exposed or green when not exposed, and may be with or without hairs. Leaves are alternately arranged along the stem, mostly consist of 5 distinct leaflets, arranged as in a hand (palmately), leaflets independent from each or partially joined together. The lower surfaces of the leaflets are variable, without hairs but often with hairs and occasionally felt-like,  and there are always down-curved spines on the main veins.

Flowering canes (flori-canes) are similar to primo-canes and develop from primo-cane in the second year, often with leaves that have only 3 leaflets, occasionally flori-canes have 5 leaflets at the base of the flori-cane where it emerges from the primo-cane.

Flowers are formed at the apex of the flori-cane. The flower stalks are less than 1.5 cm long. Flowers have five green sepal and petals that are white or pink with many stamens. Flowers are 20-30 mm in diameter.

Fruits are initially green, turning red, ripening black (Evans et al. 2007). Fruits (commonly referred to as berries) consisting of numerous small fleshy juicy segments (druplets), each containing a seed. Some fruits may contain up to 80 druplets each with a seed.

Recognition: This species can normally be recognised by the combination of the following characters; arching primo-canes (vegetative only stems) with alternative leaves with five leaflets; separate flowering cans (flori-canes) with groups of flowers at the apex; flowers with five white or pink petals; aggregate fruit that is black when ripe.

For further information and assistance with identification contact the herbarium in your state or territory or see Barker & Barker (2005) or Evans et al. (2007).

NOTE: The taxonomy of the introduced members of the genus is difficult due to non-sexual seed formation. In Flora Europaea (Tutin 1968), the Rubus fruticosus L. species-aggregate, with its associated 2000 or so named taxa, has been arranged into 66 relatively widespread and distinct micro- or circle-species around which many of the remaining less easily defined species are grouped. These micro-species can only be determined with confidence if material of both primocanes and floricanes is present (VicFlora 2016).

Flower colour

White or Pink

Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

European Blackberry grow in wetter areas of Australia where rainfall exceeds 700 mm, often in disturbed areas. No particular habitat requirements seem to apply, apart from that of rainfall (Evans et al. 2007).

Are there similar species?

Other Blackberry species are present in Australia but they can usually be distinguished because they have pinnately (opposite) inserted leaflets rather than palmately arranged (like a hand) leaflets.

The native Australian species, Rubus parvifolius, occurs in the same habitats and is often mixed with Blackberry. It has been removed in the mistaken belief that it was a weed. Other native Rubus species in the eastern states are less likely to be confused with the aggregate.

Blackberry may be confused with some introduced American species previously, or still, used for fruit production (such as Rubus laudatus, Rubus loganobaccus (Loganberry), Rubus roribaccus (Dewberry) and Rubus philadelphicus (Lawton berry)). It may also be confused with the introduced Asian species Rubus alceifolius (Giant Bramble), a pest in Queensland (Land Protection 2006) and Rubus ellipticus (Yellowberry), invasive and naturalised in Queensland and New South Wales. Rubus phoenicolasius (Wineberry) is not yet recorded as naturalised in Australia but it has been seen as an aggressive garden plant.

Before flowering it is possible to confuse some of the rose species which have naturalised in Australia with Blackberry since they both form rounded clumps along roadsides. Roses have pinnately compound leaves and a stipule attached at the base of the leaf, absent in Blackberry.

Differences between all of these species can be found in an interactive key to all Rubus species found in Australia (Barker & Barker 2005).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

European Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus aggregate) is a Weed of National Significance. It is regarded as one of the worst weeds in Australia because of its invasiveness, potential for spread, and economic and environmental impacts in cool to warm temperate to sub-tropical areas. European Blackberries can infest large areas quickly as they are vigorous growing plants with many plants able to germinate and vegetatively root covering larges areas. European Blackberries currently  infests about 9 million hectares of land in Australia. Thickets can pose a fire hazard because of the dry material contained within them. Larger animals may become trapped in the prickly thickets while smaller animals, native and feral rabbits and foxes use these thickets as shelter, and it also provides food for introduced species such as starlings, blackbirds, and foxes that subsequently spread of the species new new areas. Control costs are high and a sustained effort is needed to attain success (CRC 2003).

However on the positive side, Blackberry plants are also used for fruit and honey production.

Agriculture: Does not effect well managed farmland, but can established in paddocks as it is generally unpalatable to most livestock, eventually taking over forming large impenetrable thickets, and blocks access to waterways. Can also form thickets in orchards and forestry that restrict movement of people and machinery, reducing productivity and increasing control costs.

Native ecosystems:  Blackberry forms impenetrable prickly thickets and mounds that fill gullies and hillsides, smoother native shrub layers and ground vegetation, and prevents germination of trees and shrubs preventing succession. These thickets can also reduce the natural attraction of the bush as well as hindering recreational opportunities by preventing access to natural features.

Urban areas: Urban areas may also be affected, with blackberry occupying abandoned land and colonising roadside vegetation. Due to the prickles it is avoided by people as tough prickles it can tear and damage clothes and skin alike.

How does it spread?

European Blackberry is dispersed by fruit (sexual or asexual) and also by vegetative (asexual) means. At the end of each season the tips of the canes turn over and reach to the ground where they root and produce new plants. Fruits may contain as many as 80 seeds which are easily are dispersed by birds, mammals (especially foxes) and water. Bushwalkers and other recreational users can also spread seeds, as can moving soil from one place to another. Blackberry roots can be spread to clean areas by cultivation (CRC 2003).

Members of the aggregate are usually apomictic (genetically identical from one generation to the next) while pollination is needed to get the fruit to form there is no fusion of egg and sperm cells and so the seeds produced are identical to the mother plant. Occasional species such as Rubus ulmifolius reproduce sexually in Europe but this needs to be investigated for Australian conditions (Barker & Barker 2005)

What is its history in Australia?

European Blackberry was introduced to Australia in the 1840s as a horticultural plant for the production of fruit (Evans et al. 2007). It has not been established whether there is any truth in the story that the Government botanist in Victoria, Ferdinand Mueller, spread it as he travelled and botanised in regional Victoria and the Australian Alps in the 1860s, but it is an oft-repeated, but rarely referenced, story. (For example, see http://www.museum.vic.gov.au/forest/observations/prickly.html  and http://www.australianalps.deh.gov.au/publications/edukit/nature.html ).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

There are a number of options for control of European Blackberry and these include physical and mechanical control, fire burning, grazing, and chemical methods. Biological control research has been carried out but has proved ineffective  but whichever program is adopted it will need to be planned and sustained over a number of years to control infestations and prevent re-invasion.

Chemical control: Herbicides are the most reliable blackberry control method and should be used with other control methods. However, while several herbicides are recommended for managing Rubus species, different blackberry species react differently to herbicides. There are many herbicides registered for use on blackberry. A mixture of triclopyr + picloram used with or without aminopyralid gives the best long-term control. (DPI NSW 2019). Spray healthy, actively growing plants with new leaves on the cane tips and apply to both the outer and inner leaves with the first year plants are easier to kill. (DPI NSW 2019). Well-established thickets may need more treatments like slashing or burning to access and promote fresh new growth that affectively adsorbs herbicide. The regrowth of plants that have attained up to 1 m can then be sprayed with herbicide (DPI NSW 2019). See the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au .

Non-chemical control: Physical control: Physical control either by manual (hand) or mechanical (machine) means removes biomass, but alone is rarely successful because it’s hard to remove all the roots and is normally used with a follow-up herbicide.

Grazing: Goats can make a start on controlling heavy infestations and prefer blackberry over improved pasture species. Sheep and cattle may graze blackberry seedlings if there is no other palatable feed around also stopping young daughter plants from establishing. Again flow-up with herbicide will kill plants.

Fire: Fire will not kill blackberry infestations but is  used to reduce biomass allowing access areas and subsequent to new growth for follow-up herbicide treatment.

Biological control: Blackberry was recognised as a target for biological control through a cross-jurisdictional government process and rust was researched as and agent, although it has has largely been ineffective across the range. Beer & Morin (2005) stated that Biological control (eg the rust fungus) is particularly useful in large inaccessible areas (Beer & Morin 2005). However, the rust fungus is not used in South Australia and the rusts is now found naturally on plants with little apparent impact.

Does it have a biological control agent?

YES. Various strains of the rust fungus (Phragmidium violaceum) have been released across Australia (Harvey,  et al 2023).


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Flowering occurs from late November to February and fruiting from January to April. It only occurs on second year canes arising from the canes of the first year (primocane). New (daughter) plants develop vegetatively throughout autumn and winter when the tips of first-year canes bend over and touch the soil to form roots. New canes start growing in spring. For plants which develop from seed, most germination takes place during spring and early summer (CRC 2003).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

European Blackberry is found throughout temperate Australia, from just north of the Queensland – New South Wales border across southern Australia in areas where the annual rainfall exceeds 700 mm. It is thought to have reached the limits of its potential distribution. However, it may still spread further within its climatic limits (CRC 2003).

Where does it originate?

European Blackberry is a native of Europe where there are hundreds of microspecies recognised. Recent work (Evans et al. 2007) has matched Australian species with at least 15 European species but there is still further work needed to decide whether the Australian species have a similar genetic content to their European counterparts or whether they have evolved further in Australia (Barker 2007, pers. comm.).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?

Declared in all Australian states and territories

Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia


Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Rubus fruticosus aggregate

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

A complex of some 15-20 microspecies. Other names include:

  • Rubus anglocandicans A.Newton
  • Rubus chloocladus W.C.R.Watson
  • Rubus discolor Weihe & Nees
  • Rubus erythrops Edees & A.Newton
  • Rubus laciniatus Willd.
  • Rubus leucostachys Schleich. ex Sm.
  • Rubus phaeocarpus W.C.R.Watson
  • Rubus polyanthemus Lindeb.
  • Rubus riddelsdellii Rilstone
  • Rubrus rubritinctus W.C.R.Watson
  • Rubus ulmifolius Schott
  • Rubus vestitus Weihe

Does it have other known common name(s)?


Blackberry – a community-driven approach in Victoria

Blackberry the weed (Rubus fruticosus aggregate) was first introduced to Australia by European settlers in the mid-1800s as a fruit. It was recognised as a weed by mid-1880s. Blackberry is a serious issue across Australia. It is estimated that blackberry infests approximately 8.8 million hectares of land at an estimated cost of $103 million in annual control and production losses.

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