Wildlife to see in September – Blackberries
Delicious blackberries are ripening in the hedgerows around our villages. Blackberries are the fruits of the bramble species plant. There are many sub species of bramble and the colour of the flowers helps to identify which subspecies they are. The edible fruits change from green to pink, then darken to red and finally turn black when ripe. The bramble can flower and fruit at the same time, with flowers still being produced as late as October.
Brambles possess high wildlife value for insects, birds and mammals as they provide food aswell as shelter throughout the year. Their blossom supplies nectar and pollen for insects from early summer until late autumn and so if you take a look at a bramble plant you will often see butterflies, hoverflies and bees buzzing around. The fruits are eaten by birds: Thrushes, Blackbirds, Long-tailed Tits, Warblers as well as many mammals: Woodmice, Voles and Hedgehogs. Brambles are important structurally as they’re twisting stems and thorns give a safe place for animals to hide away from predators: for instance, in winter the nocturnal Woodcock will hide up at the bottom of a bramble bush during the day, while at night our resident Starlings will roost in the tops of the blackberry bushes. Amazingly, last winter, up to 300 Starlings were seen roosting in the bramble bush in the field off Hall Lane, Risby.
In times gone by, man has also valued the bramble, by using all parts of the plant for every day needs. The interior of the stems were used for tying and thatching, the leaves were used for medicine, the fruits were used for food (blackberry seeds have been found in Neolithic man’s diet) and the roots were used for dying material orange. Nowadays people will try and get rid of brambles as they can be invasive and are not currently endangered. However we do need to make space for them as they are so beneficial to our wildlife and they also taste wonderful in our crumbles and pies!
Things you can do to help the wildlife that depends on brambles:
Leave some brambles in your garden
Only trim brambles back once the fruits have been eaten
Don’t harvest all the blackberries for yourself, leave some for the birds and animals
Reference: Wilson, R., 1979. The Hedgerow Book. 1st ed. Newton Abbot: David & Charles Ltd.