Japanese Wineberries

A mystery fruit in our garden has turned out to be a Japanese Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) – also called wineberry or wine raspberry. Apparently the Latin name means “raspberry with purple hairs”. It is native to Eastern Asia, but after being introduced to Europe and North America for the purposes of breeding new hybrid raspberry varieties, it has escaped cultivation and naturalised, sometimes to the extent of being considered invasive.

In our garden there are a mass of sprawling canes at the foot of a tree near the house, and another less healthy plant in a small flowerbed against the wall of the house, so we think they were probably planted by the owners-before-last.

Japanese wineberry

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They intrigued me first by having very bristly but not too prickly stems and very hairy, bristly pointed seed pods. They also have lovely fresh green soft leaves which are almost heart-shaped.

When the fruits emerge, they look a bit like small, very bright red blackberries, but the plant is actually a species of raspberry.

Japanese wineberry

When the fruits emerge, they look a bit like small, very bright red blackberries. I love the way the fruits all develop at different rates within the one bunch, and when ripe they almost start to pop off their bright orange cone-shaped receptacles.

Japanese wineberry closeup

Japanese Wineberry

I should add that the fruits, although small, are very juicy, and sweet but with a slight tartness to them – refreshingly delicious!

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Learning to Love Buttercups

Creeping buttercup

Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens)

My past relationship with buttercups has not always been the best. I loved them in my earlier years, holding the flowers under my chin to see if I liked butter (!), and the lovely bright shine to their yellow petals, but my last garden in Sussex was overrun with them. They grew in the lawn, and crept from there into the flowerbeds. If you didn’t weed the flowerbeds early in the year they would be thigh-high with buttercups by late spring. A beautiful sight, really, but not one I wanted to see amongst my carefully cultivated and cared for plants. They were everywhere, and with any tiny bit of root producing a new plant, they were impossible to get rid of. However, all that is behind me now.

I have discovered, to my delight, that Creeping buttercups (Ranunculus repens) are only one type of buttercup, and that there are plenty of other varieties that, presumably, don’t creep as much. Not to say that they don’t spread, as evidenced by the wonderful vistas of buttercup-strewn meadows that I keep coming across. Mingling with red clover and daisies, they create a magnificent sight, especially when graced by a small herd of lounging Charolais cattle.

Buttercup meadowCharolais cattleTwo main varieties of buttercup grow around here, with an easy way of distinguishing between the two, once you know. The very common Meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris) has smooth stems, unlike the ridged stems of Creeping buttercups, and the five sepals – first green and later yellowing – cup the petals.

Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris)

The Bulbous buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus), on the other hand, has ridged stems, and the sepals are distinctively turned down, or reflexed. It gets its name (and its alternative common name, St Anthony’s turnip) from the bulbous corm just below ground from which the leaves grow, causing the plant to form tufts.

Bulbous Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus)

So, now that I am finding out more about them, and seeing them in all their magnificent glory in their natural habitat, I am certainly learning to love buttercups again.