June 25, 2014
Are you familiar with this plant?
I have to admit I was not ... until discovering it recently along a trail at Newport State Park in Door County, Wis. The park is near the tip of the Door County peninsula that forms the "thumb" of Wisconsin's mitten shape.
The fishman and I did a lot of hiking last week. And one of the most plentiful plants along our Newport State Park trail was Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus). At first, we simply noticed it, took a few photos, and planned to look it up later for identification.
But as we continued our hike, the plant began to dominate the forest understory. I would have called it a forb, although later research revealed it's actually a shrub.
I also learned that Thimbleberry is rare, even in my state. It's found only in far northern Michigan and its Upper Peninsula, west through northern Wisconsin, and into the Pacific Northwest, according to the UW-Green Bay Herbarium. Thimbleberry needs cool summer temperatures to thrive.
I guess I had heard of Thimbleberry before, but I don't remember seeing it. Most of the plants were in full bloom last week. The flowers are large, white, and showy, and the pollinators do a jig around the circular pollen pattern like they do with St. John's Wort and Mountain Mint.
The leaves look like Maples, about 4 inches long and wide. Thimbleberries ripen in late summer in Door County. The berries are larger and flatter than their cousins the Raspberries (Rubus spp. and hybrids), and they're fragile--making transport of fresh Thimbleberries nearly impossible, most sources agree. You can visit this UW-Green Bay link to see a photo of the berry.
But they taste great in Thimbleberry jam, which to me tastes very much like Raspberry or Strawberry jam. We bought some in Door County, although there are many online sources for buying Thimbleberry jam. I had a harder time finding a reliable online source for Thimbleberry wine, also recommended by some folks.
It's a beautiful plant, and it must be great fun to pick the plentiful berries later in the summer. You can see the fruit starting to form at the center as the petals drop.
I'm linking in with Gail's Wildflower Wednesday over at Clay and Limestone. Head on over to her blog to learn about wildflowers blooming around the world.