Species: Bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.)

Family: Roses (ROSACEAE)

Category: Flowering Plants

Location: NW

A. Flowering Plants

More extensive information on flowering plants can be found in a separate blog post.


The Rose family gives us many of our most commercially important fruits, such as the Prunus species. They have alternate leaves and 5-petalled flowers.

C. Bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.)

Flowering from May, over 2000 microspecies have been described for our native bramble, whose long, thorny, arching stems are a common sight in the cemetery.

It's a plant that provides an abundance of pollen and nectar to pollinating insects. Its leaves are eaten by caterpillars, and its ripe berries are eaten by small birds and mammals, the seeds being dispersed in the process.

Brambles - a 'management challenge'

Brambles pose a special challenge in Heene Cemetery and the response to them by the Friends is perhaps instructive. On the one hand, they provide riches aplenty to the habitat’s fauna: pollen and nectar for pollinating insects; vegetation for caterpillars; egg-laying surfaces for a myriad of insects; and, of course, fruit for birds and small mammals. Without brambles, Heene’s Local Wildlife Site habitat would have a poorer biodiversity.

On the other hand, brambles march ever onwards and, left alone, they would eventually smother everything else, leaving Heene Cemetery as it was before 2015 when the Friends first formed. Some form of ‘bramble management’ needs to be carried out, whilst consciously stopping well short of a complete grubbing-up. With its Local Wildlife Site status, Heene Cemetery is not going to return to being a traditionally tidy place, devoted to graves and monuments alone, which is how it was before its closure in 1977.

Between these two extremes lies a balanced position, although it is one that needs constant review.

Various areas of ‘deep bramble’ have been identified, and these are largely left alone. They function rather like engine rooms or crèches for the wildlife mentioned above. When bramble shoots emerge elsewhere – which is inevitable – we do our best to take them out.

From time to time, we are contacted by relatives of someone buried here, expressing a request to visit a particular grave. If the grave in question is in the middle of one of these ‘deep bramble’ areas, we will gladly cut a way through and tidy around the grave so that the family’s visit can take place properly. This matches the advice we’ve been given by Neil Hulme, butterfly expert and conservationist, which is that we cut into brambles to increase the peripheral surface that is preferred by butterflies, rather than cutting back.

Brambles, like many of the vigorous species that are to be found in Heene Cemetery (but not ‘invasive species’ – see our blog post on that topic), are to be loved but never given an entirely free pass.

Folklore and recipes

Crawling through brambles is said to get rid of blackheads, boils and eczema, but probably you just can't see them because of the blood from the scratches. Brambles were planted on graves to stop the dead from walking. To achieve good luck, and to cure ailments, walk under a briar that has arched over and taken root. Bramble stems were once used for binding, but first the thorns were stripped off by drawing the stems through a notch cut in the top of a fence post. They are a source of a black dye. Boiling the roots, which are dug up in Autumn, gives an astringent juice, and a decoction or cordial made from the fruit is used to treat mouth and throat soreness. An infusion of blackberry leaves, or the liquor from boiling the root bark in water, is good for intestinal infections like diarrhoea and dysentery.

Blackberries are rich in vitamin C, and also make a navy-blue dye. They can be turned into excellent wine, jelly, jam and pies, the latter famously in combination with apple. For most uses they can be combined with other berries such as rowanberries, elderberries, and sloes, and also crab apples. A traditional way to preserve the last blackberries of the season was to make blackberry wine.

Additional Information

Recipe for Blackberry Wine

3 lb (1350g) blackberries sugar
Put the blackberries into a stone jar and add 3 dsp (6g) of sugar. Cover with a cloth and stir each day for 3 weeks. Strain the liquor through muslin, and for every pint (600 ml) of juice measured add 1 lb (450g) of sugar. Stir well and when the sugar has dissolved pour into sterilised bottles. Add to each bottle a dsp (2g) of brandy. Invert and cork each bottle and leave for a few weeks before drinking. Blackberry and Apple (or combinations of crab apple, citrus fruits, quince, gooseberry, damson, currant, sloe or rowanberry) Jelly is a national favourite.

Recipe for Blackberry and Apple Jelly

Equal weights of blackberries and apple are washed. Cut up the apples, and add both fruits to a saucepan. Cover with water and cook slowly until soft. Strain the juice through muslin, but don't squeeze or the jelly will be cloudy. Measure the volume, and add 1 lb (0.9 kg) of sugar for every pint (600 ml). Cook until the setting point has been reached and then bottle and seal. Blackberry cordial is a fine country drink.

Recipe for Blackberry Cordial

2 pt (1200ml) blackberries 1 pint (600ml) white vinegar
½ lb (225g) honey 1 lb (450g) sugar.
Pour the vinegar on to the blackberries and allow to stand for a week. Strain through a jelly bag overnight, then add the honey and sugar to the liquor. Bring to the boil then allow to cool to room temperature and bottle. Store in a cool, dark place. Dilute with water before drinking.



Brambles were planted on graves to stop the dead from walking.


Bramble provides an abundance of pollen and nectar to pollinating insects. Its leaves are eaten by caterpillars, and its ripe berries are eaten by small birds and mammals, the seeds being dispersed in the process.