Gifts of the Blackberry

Musings from an Herb-wife in the City…

Yesterday I went out to peruse a metaphysical book store in Portland this afternoon (Moon Shadow) and was attracted to a Botanical 0racle card set. Needless to say, plants are my “thing” and I promptly purchased the box. I was attracted to the illustrated cards and was curious about the attributes the author assigned to the plants.

The author of this deck is not a botanist, nor a plant ecophysiologist. I found her written interpretation regarding the attributes of blackberry (which I wrote about the other day) to be a bit shallow to my liking. So I decided to delve a bit into my own knowledge of the shrub and flesh out my own understanding of what this plant offers to the World, both as Medicine and Teaching. So here goes….

…. Blackberry is a plant that can usually

be found on disturbed agricultural ground. One often sees it along the margins of or even within old pastures. It has a purpose in it’s ecology – it enters into environments that have been disturbed and by human activities. It is considered a “pioneer” species, whose purpose and function is to create appropriate conditions for other plants to establish themselves.

In fact, blackberry is known in Europe and parts of North America as “precursors of a forest”. They weaken the competitive ability of grasses and herbs, sometimes to the point of eradicating entire populations of native species. Blackberry does, however, offer benefits to marginal sites by offering their leaves as humus to rebuild the organic and nutrient layers of the soil. They are “nursery” plants, providing a protection for emerging young trees and shrubs from herbivores. When the trees grow tall, they shade out the blackberry which will then die back. While living, she is fruitful, providing abundant flowers to insects and luscious, juicy fruit for all forms of wildlife. She proves formidable to other living Beings, who must navigate her thorns to forage her fruit.

When introduced into foreign landscapes such as Australia, blackberry can prove to be formidable. She can inspire fear through being impressively capable and adaptable. Her Strengths lie in the fact that she is a relatively long-lived species with a voracious capacity for reproduction. She does not require a “mate” to reproduce. She generates new suckers and offspring without fertilization from another plant. Her offspring are genetically identical to each other which can be a very strong trait for evolutionary fitness. I guess one could look at her as being relatively self contained and self perpetuating. Quite the independent organism, no?

The blackberry always imposes change to a landscape… she can alter the ground and overland water flow, affect wind dispersion, cause fluctuations in temperatures, prevent soil erosion and can stabilize friable soils. Her Strength lies in “Adaptation”, in her ability to adapt to marginal environments. In time she offers her fragrance and fruit to the World. She is often prickly and difficult to coddle. She nourishes her Source, becoming well rooted in the Earth and Her lineage is Ever-bearing. In some environments her spines offer Hope and Protection to the emerging future of Life and its cycles. She is Strong, Formidable and Perpetuating … Blessed Be the Blackberry!

Blackberry Oracle card from the “Hedgewitch’s Botanical Oracle”. Siolo Thompson (2018). Llewellyn Publications.

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