Prairie’s Plants: Black Cap Raspberry

Shoutout to @visardistofelphame, who suggested this and taught me that black raspberries are called bramble berries too!

Scientific Name: Rubus occidentalis (easily confused and often conflated with the very closely related Rubus leucodermis)

Common names: Black raspberry, blackcap raspberry, thimbleberry, bramble berry

Appearance: Plant is generally shrubby, though it can get quite tall–I’ve seen brambles as tall as I am on rare occasions, though generally it’s closer to waist heir. Plant grows upwards for a while before it starts to bow under its own weight, forming brambly hedges. Stems are prickly; leaves are pinate and medium green with pale or white undersides. White and green flowers that are tightly bunched and not particularly showy produce fruit that starts green/white, then darkens to red and finally blue-black. 

Range: Midwest and eastern US and eastern Canada.

Historical and medicinal uses: Aside from being an obvious tasty treat, blackcaps are quite healthy–as with most deeply colored fruits and vegetables, they contain high amounts of antioxidants, and the leaves are traditional in many American folk recipes for treating stomachache and diarrhea.  

Cherokee and Chipewa groups used black raspberry roots and leaves to treat some gastrointestinal issues, as well as ease birthing and menstrual issues–in teas, I believe, though my ethnobotany text on this was a little vague. (As always I welcome corrections if anyone knows more or better). Several Dakota tribes also used blackcaps to treat dysentery symptoms, speaking to their efficacy in soothing bowel issues. 

Associations and Potential Uses: I admit I rarely use black raspberries in magic–they’re chiefly a plant of patience, which is generally not something I want to invoke. I like rapid progress and have minimal patience (which is something I’m working on!) That said, they could be used to help cultivate patience in others (or yourself… maybe something I should consider).

Generally, I find a plant’s habits to speak to the lessons it can teach or ways it can be used in magic. Like its cousin rose, blackcap can form thick brambly hedges, but its lessons in hedgework are to go slow, stick to the path you know, don’t try to take knowledge or power before you’ve earned it. And more than anything, it teaches to protect your own gifts: don’t give them away without careful consideration.