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SPECIES:  Rubus canadensis
Smooth blackberry. Wikimedia Commons image by Quinn Dombrowski.



AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Coladonato, Milo. 1994. Rubus canadensis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Revisions: On 29 March 2018, the common name of this species was changed in FEIS from: thornless blackberry to: smooth blackberry. Images were also added.
ABBREVIATION : RUBCAN SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY NRCS PLANT CODE : RUCA16 COMMON NAMES : smooth blackberry thornless blackberry TAXONOMY : The scientific name for smooth blackberry is Rubus canadensis L. (Rosaceae). No infrataxa are recognized [11,23]. LIFE FORM : Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Rubus canadensis
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Smooth blackberry's range extends from Newfoundland to Ontario and along the Atlantic Coast south to Georgia and inland to Kentucky and Tennessee [27,32,35].
Distribution of smooth blackberry. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [34] [2018, March 29].

   FRES10  White - red - jack pine
   FRES11  Spruce - fir
   FRES14  Oak - pine
   FRES15  Oak - hickory
   FRES18  Maple - beech - birch
   FRES19  Aspen - birch

     CT  DE  GA  KY  ME  MD  MA  MI  MN  NH
     NY  NC  PA  RI  SC  TN  VT  VA  WV  WI
     NB  NF  NS  ON  PQ


   K093  Great Lakes spruce - fir forest
   K095  Great Lakes pine forest
   K096  Northeastern spruce - fir forest
   K097  Southeastern spruce - fir forest
   K099  Maple - basswood forest
   K100  Oak - hickory forest
   K102  Beech - maple forest
   K103  Mixed mesophytic forest
   K104  Appalachian oak forest
   K107  Northern hardwoods - fir forest
   K108  Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
   K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest
   K112  Southern mixed forest

     5  Balsam fir
    14  Northern pin oak
    17  Pin cherry
    18  Paper birch
    23  Eastern hemlock
    24  Hemlock - yellow birch
    25  Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
    27  Sugar maple
    30  Red spruce - yellow birch
    31  Red spruce - sugar maple - beech
    32  Red spruce
    33  Red spruce - balsam fir
    34  Red spruce - Fraser fir
    35  Paper birch - red spruce - balsam fir
    42  Bur oak
    45  Pitch pine
    46  Eastern redcedar
    53  White oak
    57  Yellow-poplar
    58  Yellow-poplar - eastern hemlock
    59  Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak
    60  Beech - sugar maple


Smooth blackberry is a common understory species in open deciduous
forests, on mountain ridges, and in disturbed areas [4,15,19,20,22].

Common understory associates of smooth blackberry include mountain
maple (Acer spicatum), serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), hobblebush
(Viburnum alnifolium), scarlet elder (Sambucus pubens), common
blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis), beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta),
southern mountain cranberry (Vaccinium erythrocarpum), minnie-bush
(Menziesia pilosa), and rosebay (Rhododendron catawbiense)


SPECIES: Rubus canadensis
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Smooth blackberry is an important food for wildlife. Game birds, songbirds, raccoons, chipmunks, and squirrels eat the fruits. Deer and rabbits extensively browse the leaves and stems [5]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : Smooth blackberry's extensive colonies provide excellent cover for wildlife. The colonies create nearly impenetrable thickets where birds, rabbits, and other animals hide. Colonies of smooth blackberry are common nesting sites for small birds [5]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Smooth blackberry has good erosion control value. It grows satisfactorily on barren and infertile soils and invades and occupies eroded areas. Smooth blackberry also establishes quickly on burns, old fields, and logged areas [5,37]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : The fruit of all species of blackberries are used to make desserts and sweet liqueurs [39]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Maintaining openings in the overstory is the key to promoting smooth blackberry because invading trees and shrubs quickly shade it out. Smooth blackberry can be encouraged or rejuvenated by removing overhead shade, mowing, light burning, or deep cultivation [5]. Smooth blackberry is moderately sensitive to ozone [12,26].


SPECIES: Rubus canadensis
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Smooth blackberry is a deciduous, erect or arching, thicket-forming shrub which grows to 10 feet (2-3 m) in height [3,32,35,36]. The alternate compound leaves are 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm) long. The numerous flowers are borne in clusters of up to 25. The fruit is an aggregate of small drupes, each containing a single hard-pitted nutlet [3,32]. Rhizomes are typically about 3 to 4 inches (8-10 cm) below the surface [9]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Hemicryptophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Reproductive versatility is well represented in the Rubus genus [7]. Smooth blackberry reproduces from seeds, by sprouting from rhizomes and the root crown, and by layering [5]. Vegetative propagation is the primary source of development of the dense colonies [5,15]. Seeds are probably dispersed by birds and animals that eat the fruit. Aboveground stems can reach 3 feet (1 m) in height in less than 2 months [21]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Smooth blackberry grows across a wide range of sites throughout the cool, moist climate of the Northeast [3,32]. It is very common in woods, old fields, cool hollows, and along roadsides [5,36]. Smooth blackberry is a mid- to high-elevation shrub. Frequency of smooth blackberry on heath balds in the Great Smoky Mountains was as follows [37]: Elevation 1200 m 1520 m 1980 m Frequency* 17 50 33 *average percentage of 6 plots SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Smooth blackberry is shade intolerant [22]. It is present in mature spruce-fir forests in North Carolina [29], but not in sites undisturbed for 40 or more years in New Brunswick [9]. It shows vigorous growth in full sunlight and invades and colonizes many types of disturbed sites [5,6]. Vegetational changes following the death of Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) in the Great Smoky Mountains included a large (>10-fold) increase in smooth blackberry [22]. It is frequent in canopy gaps in spruce-fir (Picea spp.-Abies spp.) forests of the Great Smoky Mountains [13,16]. In canopy gaps in American beech (Fagus grandifolia) forest in the Great Smoky Mountains, smooth blackberry showed 93 percent frequency on 14 stands [28]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Smooth blackberry flowers from May to June. Fruits ripen in early summer and persist into September. The seed disperses in September [3,5].


SPECIES: Rubus canadensis
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Smooth blackberry is favored by fire [29,35,38]. Burning typically stimulates sprouting [5]. Root crowns and rhizomes are primarily in the mineral soil, a morphological trait that favors high rates of survival following fire [9]. Even severe fires provide conditions where smooth blackberry can establish or increase [29,37]. Spruce-fir forests, in which smooth blackberry occurs, burn infrequently but are more likely to burn after logging or other disturbances [37]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil Small shrub, adventitious-bud root crown FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".


SPECIES: Rubus canadensis
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Fire top-kills smooth blackberry [9]. Smooth blackberry probably survives most fires by sprouting from rootstocks and/or rhizomes [5,9]. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Like all blackberries, smooth blackberry is well adapted to colonize burns [6,35]. After logging and slash burning in the spruce-fir zone of the Appalachian Mountains, blackberry species were predominant on most sites [37]. Saunders and others [29] reported that smooth blackberry made up 19 percent of the stems present in the shrub layer following a severe fire in the mountains of western North Carolina. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Rubus canadensis
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Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 115(1): 25-31. [4491] 5. Core, Earl L. 1974. Brambles. In: Gill, John D.; Healy, William M., compilers. Shrubs and vines for Northeastern wildlife. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-9. Broomall, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 16-19. [8923] 6. Crandall, Dorothy L. 1958. Ground vegetation patterns of the spruce-fir area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Ecological Monographs. 28(4): 337-360. [11226] 7. Crane, M. B. 1940. Reproductive versatility in Rubus. I. Morphology and inheritance. Journal of Genetics. 40: 109-118. [8443] 8. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905] 9. Flinn, Marguerite A.; Wein, Ross W. 1977. Depth of underground plant organs and theoretical survival during fire. Canadian Journal of Botany. 55: 2550-2554. [6362] 10. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998] 11. Gleason, Henry A.; Cronquist, Arthur. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York: New York Botanical Garden. 910 p. [20329] 12. Hacker, David; Renfro, James. 1992. Great Smoky Mountain plants studied for ozone sensitivity. Park Science. 12(1): 6-7. [17788] 13. Harmon, M. E.; Bratton, S. P.; White, P. S. 1983. Disturbance and vegetation response in relation to environmental gradients in the Great Smoky Mountains. Vegetatio. 55: 129-139. [21309] 14. Hickman, James C., ed. 1993. The Jepson manual: Higher plants of California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1400 p. [21992] 15. Hogdon, A. R.; Steele, Frederic. 1966. Rubus subgenus Eubatus in New England: a conspectus. Rhodora. 68: 474-513. [6213] 16. Johnson, Dale W.; Van Miegroet, Helga; Lindberg, Steven E.; [and others]. 1991. Nutrient cycling in red spruce forests of the Great Smoky Mountains. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 21: 769-787. [15020] 17. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384] 18. Longley, Albert E. 1924. Cytological studies in the genus Rubus. American Journal of Botany. 11: 249-282. [6249] 19. McIntosh, R. P.; Hurley, R. T. 1964. The spruce-fir forest of the Catskill Mountains. Ecology. 45(2): 314-326. [14886] 20. Oosting, H. J.; Billings, W. D. 1951. A comparison of virgin spruce-fir forest in the northern and southern Appalachian system. Ecology. 32(1): 84-103. [11236] 21. Pauley, Eric F. 1989. Stand composition and structure of a second-growth red spruce forest in West Virginia. Castanea. 54(1): 12-18. [25163] 22. Pauley, Eric F.; Clebsch, Edward E. C. 1990. Patterns of Abies fraseri regeneration in a Great Smoky Mountains spruce-fir forest. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 117(4): 375-381. [14333] 23. Radford, Albert E.; Ahles, Harry E.; Bell, C. Ritchie. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1183 p. [7606] 24. Ramseur, George S. 1960. The vascular flora of high mountain communities of the southern Appalachians. Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Science Society. 76: 82-112. [21401] 25. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843] 26. Renfro, James R. 1989. Evaluating the effects of ozone on the plants of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Park Science. 9(4): 22-23. [9337] 27. Roland, A. E.; Smith, E. C. 1969. The flora of Nova Scotia. Halifax, NS: Nova Scotia Museum. 746 p. [13158] 28. Russell, Norman H. 1953. The beech gaps of the Great Smoky Mountains. Ecology. 34(2): 366-374. [11229] 29. Saunders, Paul R.; Smathers, Garrett A.; Ramseur, George S. 1983. Secondary succession of a spruce-fir burn in the Plott Balsam Mountains, North Carolina. Castanea. 48(1): 41-47. [8658] 30. Shanks, Royal E. 1954. Climates of the Great Smoky Mountains. Ecology. 35: 354-361. [11124] 31. Siccama, T. G. 1974. Vegetation, soil, and climate on the Green Mountains of Vermont. Ecological Monographs. 44: 325-249. [6859] 32. Soper, James H.; Heimburger, Margaret L. 1982. Shrubs of Ontario. Life Sciences Misc. Publ. Toronto, ON: Royal Ontario Museum. 495 p. [12907] 33. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. [20090] 34. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2018. PLANTS Database, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (Producer). Available: [34262] 35. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240] 36. Voss, Edward G. 1972. Michigan flora. Part I. Gymnosperms and monocots. Bloomfield Hills, MI: Cranbrook Institute of Science; Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Herbarium. 488 p. [11471] 37. White, Peter S.; Buckner, Edward R.; Pittillo, J. Dan; Cogbill, Charles V. 1993. High-elevation forests: spruce-fir forests, northern hardwood forests, and associated communities. In: Martin, William H.; Boyce, Stephen G.; Echternacht, Arthur C., eds. Biodiversity of the southeastern United States: Upland terrestrial communities. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc: 305-337. [21942] 38. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States and southern Canada. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 501 p. [2620] 39. Chapman, William K.; Bessette, Alan E. 1990. Trees and shrubs of the Adirondacks. Utica, NY: North Country Books, Inc. 131 p. [12766]

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