Rubus parviflorus

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Rubus parviflorus
Rubus parviflorus 9481.JPG

Secure (NatureServe)
Scientific classification
R. parviflorus
Binomial name
Rubus parviflorus
Nutt. 1818

Rubus parviflorus, commonly called thimbleberry,[2] is a species of Rubus native to North America.


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.[3][4][5]


Rubus 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.[6]

Thimbleberry flower
Rubus parviflorus foliage texture


Rubus parviflorus is a dense shrub up to 2.5 meters (8.2 ft) tall with canes no more than 1.5 centimeters (0.59 in) 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 centimeters (7.9 in) across (much larger than most other Rubus species), with five lobes; they are soft and fuzzy in texture.[7][8][9][10]

The flowers are 2 to 6 centimeters (0.79 to 2.36 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, making its Latin species name parviflorus ("small-flowered") a misnomer.[7][11]

The plant produces edible composite fruit approximately a centimeter (0.4 inches) in diameter, which ripen to a bright red in mid to late summer. Like other 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 separately from the core when picked, leaving a hollow fruit which bears a resemblance to a thimble, perhaps giving the plant its name.[7][12]



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

However, the wild thimbleberries can be eaten raw or dried and can be made into a jam which is sold as a local delicacy in some parts of their range, notably in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan. Thimbleberry jam is 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 their distinguished sweet sour taste are good for a while in the refrigerator and can be added to all kinds of desserts and vinaigrettes.[13]

Cultivated plant in the Helsinki University Botanical Garden, Finland


Rubus 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.[14] Thimbleberry plants can be propagated most successfully by planting dormant rhizome segments, as well as from seeds or stem cuttings.

Size of ripe thimbleberry

The flowers support pollinators, including of special value to Native bees, honeybees, and bumblebees.[11] The fruit is attractive to birds.[11] It is the larval host and a nectar source for the yellow-banded sphinx moth.[11]


Cultivars of the plant are selected for ornamental qualities, such as for their fragrant flowers and/or attractive fall foliage color.[15]

A double-flowered form of the thimbleberry was discovered near Squamish, BC, by Iva Angerman (1903–2008) of West Vancouver, BC.[16] 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.

Another double-flowered thimbleberry was found about 1975 by Bob Hornback on Starrett Hill, Monte Rio, California and given the cultivar name 'Dr. Stasek', after an art instructor at Sonoma State University.


Many parts of the Rubus parviflorus plant were used for a great variety of medicinal purposes by Native Americans.[13][15][17] Thimbleberries are very high in Vitamin C as well as A and can be used to treat scurvy. A poultice of the dried, powdered leaves can be used to treat wounds and burns, as well as the fresh ones to treat acne. A tea made from its leaves or roots can be used as a treatment for nausea, vomiting diarrhea and dysentery. Thimbleberry leaves can also be used as a natural toilet paper.[18]

The Concow tribe calls the plant wä-sā’ (Konkow language).[19]


  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. ^ Sullivan, Steven. K. (2015). "Rubus parviflorus". Wildflower Search. Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  4. ^ "Rubus parviflorus". PLANTS Database. United States Department of Agriculture; Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2015. Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  5. ^ SEINet, Southwestern Biodiversity, Arizona chapter includes photos, description, distribution map
  6. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2008. Coastal Woodfern (Dryopteris arguta), GlobalTwitcher, ed. N. Stromberg Archived 2011-07-11 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b c Flora of North America, Rubus parviflorus Nuttall, 1818. Thimbleberry
  8. ^ Klinkenberg, Brian (Editor) (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.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Giblin, David (Editor) (2015). "Rubus parviflorus". WTU Herbarium Image Collection. Burke Museum, University of Washington. Retrieved 2016-07-03.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  10. ^ "Rubus parviflorus". Jepson eFlora: Taxon page. Jepson Herbarium; University of California, Berkeley. 2015. Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  11. ^ a b c d Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, University of Texas — Rubus parviflorus . accessed 2.12.2013
  12. ^ Earl J.S. Rook, Rubus parviflorus Thimbleberry photo
  13. ^ a b Ethnobotany, University of Michigan
  14. ^ Las Pilitas Nursery horticultural treatment: Rubus parviflorus — Thimbleberry . accessed 2.12.2013
  15. ^ a b US Forest Service Fire Ecology
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Native American Ethnobotany (University of Michigan - Dearborn) — for Rubus parviflorus . accessed 2.12.2103
  18. ^ Holly, Henry (18 August 2014). "Thimbleberry". The Northwest Forager™. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  19. ^ Chesnut, Victor King (1902). Plants used by the Indians of Mendocino County, California. Government Printing Office. p. 408. Retrieved 24 August 2012.

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