Rubus parviflorus

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Rubus parviflorus 9481.JPG

Secure (NatureServe)
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Rubus
Subgenus: Rubus subg. Anoplobatus
R. parviflorus
Binomial name
Rubus parviflorus
Nutt. 1818
  • Bossekia nutkana Greene
  • Bossekia parviflora (Nutt.) Greene
  • Rubacer parviflorum (Nutt.) Rydb.
  • Rubus natkanus G.Don
  • Rubus nutkanus Moc. ex Ser.
  • Rubus nutkanus var. nuttallii Torr. & A.Gray
  • Rubus nutkanus var. parviflorus (Nutt.) Focke
  • Rubus parviflorus var. bifarius Fernald
  • Rubus parviflorus var. grandiflorus Farw.
  • Rubus parviflorus var. heteradenius Fernald
  • Rubus parviflorus var. hypomalacus Fernald
  • Rubus parviflorus subsp. velutinus (Hook. & Arn.) R.L.Taylor & MacBryde
  • Rubus velutinus Hook. & Arn.
  • Rubus ribifolius C.K.Schneid.

Rubus parviflorus, commonly called thimbleberry,[2] (also known as redcaps) is a species of Rubus native to northern temperate regions of North America. The plant has large hairy leaves and no thorns. It bears edible red fruit similar in appearance to a raspberry, but shorter, almost hemispherical. It has not been commercially developed for the retail berry market, but is cultivated for landscapes.


Rubus parviflorus is a dense shrub up to 2.5 meters (8 feet) tall with canes no more than 1.5 centimeters (12 inch) in diameter, often growing in large clumps which spread through the plant's underground rhizome. Unlike many other members of the genus, it has no prickles. The leaves are palmate, up to 20 cm (8 in) across (much larger than most other Rubus species), with five lobes; they are soft and fuzzy in texture.[3][4][5][6]

The flowers are 2 to 6 cm (34 to 2+14 in) in diameter, with five white petals and numerous pale yellow stamens. The flower of this species is among the largest of any Rubus species.[7][3]

The plant produces edible composite fruit approximately 1 cm (12 in) in diameter, which ripen to a bright red in mid to late summer. Like raspberries, it is not a true berry, but instead an aggregate fruit of numerous drupelets around a central core. The drupelets may be carefully removed intact, separately from the core, when picked, leaving a hollow fruit which bears a resemblance to a thimble, perhaps giving the plant its name.[3][8]


The specific epithet parviflorus ("small-flowered") is a misnomer, since the species' flower is the largest of the genus.[7][3] The Concow tribe calls the plant wä-sā’ (Konkow language).[9]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Rubus parviflorus is native to western North America from Alaska south as far as California, New Mexico, Chihuahua, and San Luis Potosí. Its range extends east to the Rocky Mountains and discontinuously to the Great Lakes Region. It grows from sea level in the north, up to elevations of 3,000 m (10,000 ft) in the south.[10][11][12]

R. parviflorus typically grows along roadsides, railroad tracks, and in forest clearings, commonly appearing as an early part of the ecological succession in clear cut and forest fire areas.

Thimbleberry is found in forest understories with typical flora associates including coastal woodfern (Dryopteris arguta), Trillium ovatum and Smilacina racemosa.[13]


The fruit is consumed by birds and bears, while black-tailed deer browse the young leaves and stems.[14] Larvae of the wasp species Diastrophus kincaidii (thimbleberry gallmaker)[15] develop in large, swollen galls on R. parviflorus stems.[16]


Cultivated plant in the Helsinki University Botanical Garden in Finland

R. parviflorus is cultivated by specialty plant nurseries as an ornamental plant, used in traditional, native plant, and wildlife gardens, in natural landscaping design, and in habitat restoration projects. The fruit has fragrance.[17] Thimbleberry plants can be propagated most successfully by planting dormant rhizome segments, as well as from seeds or stem cuttings.

The flowers support pollinators, including of special value to Native bees, honeybees, and bumblebees.[7] The fruit is attractive to various birds and mammals, including bears.[7][18] It is the larval host and a nectar source for the yellow-banded sphinx moth.[7]


Cultivars of the plant are selected for ornamental qualities, such as for their fragrant flowers and/or attractive fall foliage color.[19]

A double-flowered form of the thimbleberry was discovered near Squamish, British Columbia, by Iva Angerman (1903–2008) of West Vancouver.[20] This clone does not appear to be in commerce, but is grown in the Botanic Garden of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and in the Native Plant Garden of the Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria.

Berries foraged in New York State



Thimbleberry fruits are flatter and softer (more fragile) than raspberries, but similarly have many small seeds. Because the fruit is so soft, it does not pack or ship well, so thimbleberries are rarely cultivated commercially.

Wild thimbleberries can be eaten raw or dried (the water content of ripe thimbleberries is quite variable), and can be made into a jam[21] which is sold as a local delicacy in some parts of their range, notably in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan. Thimbleberry jam is commonly made by combining equal volumes of berries and sugar and boiling the mixture for two minutes before packing it into jars. Without sugar, the cooked berries, with a distinguishing sweet-sour taste, keep for a few days in the refrigerator.

Traditional medicine[edit]

Many parts of the plant were used in folk medicine by Native Americans.[21][19][22] A tea made from its leaves or roots was thought to be a treatment for wounds, burns, acne, or digestive problems;[23] a tea made from the canes was thought to be useful as a diuretic.[24] As of 2019, there is no evidence from modern clinical research or practice that R. parviflorus is effective for treating any disease.

Thimbleberry leaves can be used in place of toilet paper when in the wilderness.[23]


  1. ^ The Plant List, Rubus parviflorus Nutt.
  2. ^ "Rubus parviflorus". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d Flora of North America, Rubus parviflorus Nuttall, 1818. Thimbleberry
  4. ^ Klinkenberg, Brian, ed. (2014). "Rubus parviflorus". E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Plants of British Columbia []. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  5. ^ Giblin, David, ed. (2015). "Rubus parviflorus". WTU Herbarium Image Collection. Burke Museum, University of Washington. Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  6. ^ "Rubus parviflorus". Jepson eFlora: Taxon page. Jepson Herbarium; University of California, Berkeley. 2015. Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  7. ^ a b c d e Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, University of Texas — Rubus parviflorus . accessed 2.12.2013
  8. ^ Earl J.S. Rook, Rubus parviflorus Thimbleberry photo
  9. ^ Chesnut, Victor King (1902). Plants used by the Indians of Mendocino County, California. Government Printing Office. p. 408. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  10. ^ Sullivan, Steven. K. (2015). "Rubus parviflorus". Wildflower Search. Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  11. ^ "Rubus parviflorus". PLANTS Database. United States Department of Agriculture; Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2015. Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  12. ^ SEINet, Southwestern Biodiversity, Arizona chapter includes photos, description, distribution map
  13. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2008. Coastal Woodfern (Dryopteris arguta), GlobalTwitcher, ed. N. Stromberg Archived 2011-07-11 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Fagan, Damian (2019). Wildflowers of Oregon: A Field Guide to Over 400 Wildflowers, Trees, and Shrubs of the Coast, Cascades, and High Desert. Guilford, CT: FalconGuides. p. 89. ISBN 978-1-4930-3633-2. OCLC 1073035766.
  15. ^ "Thimbleberry Gallmaker (Diastrophus kincaidii)". iNaturalist. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  16. ^ "Diastrophus kincaidii". Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  17. ^ Las Pilitas Nursery horticultural treatment: Rubus parviflorus — Thimbleberry . accessed 2.12.2013
  18. ^ Whitney, Stephen (1985). Western Forests (The Audubon Society Nature Guides). New York: Knopf. p. 420. ISBN 0-394-73127-1.
  19. ^ a b US Forest Service Fire Ecology
  20. ^ Griffiths, Anthony J. F. and Ganders, Fred R. (1983). Wildflower Genetics-a Field Guide for British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. Flight Press, Vancouver. ISBN 0-919843-00-X.
  21. ^ a b "Search for Rubus parviflorus". Ethnobotany, University of Michigan. 2016-03-03. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  22. ^ Native American Ethnobotany (University of Michigan - Dearborn) — for Rubus parviflorus . accessed 2.12.2013
  23. ^ a b Holly, Henry (18 August 2014). "Thimbleberry". The Northwest Forager™. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  24. ^ Lyle, Katie Letcher (2010) [2004]. The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts: How to Find, Identify, and Cook Them (2nd ed.). Guilford, CN: FalconGuides. p. 75. ISBN 978-1-59921-887-8. OCLC 560560606.

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