We've got a lot of wild blackberries at our place, in a number of different kinds of places. they're a totally feral population - i haven't done anything at all to help or hinder them, aside from some mowing so i still have places i can walk. we've been noticing a huge difference in the size and succulence of berries depending on how much sun they get. the plants that have decided to set fruit in mostly shaded places are much bigger and juicier. there are more plants in nearly full sun, and while their berries are smaller, there have been way more of them so far by mass...but that's also partly because the shadier plants are ripening much slower. we're past the halfway point on the sunny plants as far as total harvest, but the big shady plants are just getting started. i saw the same happening to a lesser degree with blackcaps earlier in the season, but more of those plants are in part shade so it was less pronounced.
i assume the main difference is just that the shadier spots hold onto their moisture for longer between rains, because they don't have it baked out as much by the direct sun.
this has obvious ramifications for the forest garden. save the sunnier spots for things that need it!
photo comparison features the same number of 'average' berries from both sunny and shady plants
Here in western Missouri, Native blackberries and all black raspberrIes that I’ve seen do much better with afternoon shade. I used to have some southern varieties from Arkansas. They freeze down here sometimes. They did very well in the sun. I didn’t have any planted in the shade to compare, but it makes sense that in a more northern climate, they might need more sun.
My blackberries are in a shady spot. I worry that they are too shady. They go from about 4 hours of sun in the spring to maybe 1 in midsummer. It's a real edge type setup. The berries are big and juicy, though, similar to the ones in your picture. Unfortunately, the deer got into them and I haven't harvested many for myself! The worst part is they ate a lot of the new canes so next year might not be so good
I found some beauties while trout fishing in a river shaded by willows this past summer.
Biggest juiciest blackberries I've ever seen.
posted 4 months ago
I live in Central Florida. The best native blackberries face the East, getting morning sun and afternoon shade. Try putting tulle over some of your plants, or around the plant baeses to protect the fruit from deer and critters. They sell it in hunter green so it blends in. Happy Gardening. 👩🌾🌻 Life, Love & Peace to ALL. 🌌💎🌌😂🐺
Location: Zone 9b, northern California, 2500 ft elevation
posted 4 months ago
Have noticed the same thing. However, the ones that are in the shade tend to be less sweet or be less flavorful. Have also noticed with our sunnier berries that they seem to swell up more when they are close to ripe - I only pick the ones that appear a little dull, which is when they're ripest. If these are not picked, they often shrivel up within a few days rather than falling off the bush.
Most blackberries and raspberries I find growing wild grow in partial shade along the edge of forests, so I'm assuming the plants benefit from some protection from the sun. A video on growing blackberries and raspberries by Luke Marion from MIgardener seems to confirm this. The berries will dry out faster in full sun, so they need some shade to protect the plants and the berries.
I am in the process of collecting wild blackberry seeds right now for Fall sowing, so it is good to keep these shade requirements in mind. I was planning on planting the berries on the south side of my house so they have some protection from full sun.
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After 8 years of picking the same acreage, I'm developing a theory that different varieties produce different size, shape and progression of maturation. I've got uprights at the bottom of the slope (that are definitely not thornless); and they produce plump, round berries all at the same time. The long reclining canes upslope produce thumb-size and shape berries; ripening starting with the terminal berries and taking the whole season to produce.
My impression is the amount of sun is less important than other factors. Some of my brambles are still overgrown with honeysuckle and other aggressives, and the berries are still coming on and good sized underneath all that heavy shade. I carry my pruners with to find them. The slope was much clearer when I bought the property 10 years ago. Lots of young trees have grown up within the fields since then. I'm thinking the blackberries do appreciate living alongside and into the branches. And reaching up to pluck berries is much easier on my back than bending down so much. Now that I'll be there full time, I'm considering managing the trees as pollards, so they don't get too big. And mowing more!
This year the berries are much delayed. We had a hard frost three days in May. I've still got tiny green berries at the top of the slope; and I doubt they will ripen before the cane decides to shut down vascularly, which is beginning to happen. Typically, last week would be the peak picking time, but I've struggled to get a gallon a day. I think peak will be next week and the one after. Very late.
There is a HUGE amount of genetic diversity in wild blackberries, and the fruit can be very varied from plant to plant. We know of a few patch that produce excellent berries year after year, and others that look promising but are always disappointing.
Soil moisture seems to be one important factor, which may be linked to shade if sunny spots dry out faster?
Also, pruning - even on wild plants - can drastically improve yield, and access to actually collect the fruit without being ripped to shreds. New vigorous stems can be tipped off, to about 4ft long. You’ll end up with a much more upright plant, and the cut stem will send out many side shoots that will bear more fruit while being easy to harvest.
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Another thing to consider here is an older and often neglected name for the smaller native American cousin of the erect blackberry, which is the Dew Berry
I'm pretty sure erect blackberries work the same way and it's why they can be setting juicy fruit climates where most un-irrigated plants have turned in for the year due to lack of water; these plants have a greater capacity for drinking moisture from night air. In fact, as they are ripening, you can see and feel the condensation on the berries in the morning, when such condensation is not visible on other plants. For one thing the color black causes this, that is increased black body radiation which results in a cooler and more actively condensing berry come dawn. Also the old-rubbing-fur-on-a-glass-rod trick would suggest the surface of the berry has an electrical charge, as they strongly attract things like wind born dandelion seeds. I want to guess this also increases the condensation rate. I like blackberries and physics haha.
Shaded areas tend to be more humid, and the edges of high canopy and open meadow tends to create temperature differences come evening, which creates gentle air flows. And tends to create dew and nice dew berries!