Luther Burbank’s ‘mistake’ taking over the NW

  • This is excerpted from an undated newspaper article without attribution – If you can supply the missing info, please send it to us.
  • We’re omitting the details of using the below mentioned herbicides – If you are interested in using goats, we can presuppose that you do NOT want to expose your home, property, family and pets to noxious chemicals.


00Property owners facing a thicket of blackberry vines can sympathize with Prince Charming confronting the forest of thorns outside Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
But a bit of inside information from Oregon State University’s Extension Office, good timing and dedication can reduce a sprawling blackberry thicket to a few manageable stragglers.
00“It’s almost impossible to eradicate a large patch because so many seeds remain in the soil.” Said Susan Aldrich -Markham, a field crops agent for OSU’s Yamhill County Extension Office.
00On her own creek-side property, Aldrich-Markham has been trying all kinds of methods for six years and advising rural homeowners, farmers and gardeners what they can do to control blackberry vines.
00Contrary to the notion that the blackberry is as native to the Northwest as rain, this hardy relative of the rose sprang from experiments by famed horticultural pioneer Luther Burbank (1849-1926). He is honored for developing more than 200 species of fruits and vegetables, including 166 varieties of plums and the russet potato.

00But the western European blackberry that Burbank introduced in 1885 as “Himalayan giant” (Robus discolor) has become a giant problem. A single blackberry cane can produce a thicket six yards square in less then 2 years. In 113 years, the Himalayan blackberry’s classification has changed from tasty berry to noxious weed as it has choked out native vegetation from northern California to British Columbia. It is illegal to plant “Robus discolor” in many areas and its extermination is required by some land covenants.
00But some common methods work well, as long as those preparing to battle the blackberry  vines are armed with information about the benefits and drawbacks of the most common methods.

Listed here, they range from organic to chemical:
● DIGGING up, or plowing under
As noted, this is almost like a blackberry thicket health treatment. It brings blackberry seeds close to the surface, so hundreds of new plants can spring up. Most effective on small highly-managed plots, where sprouts can be dug up before setting deep roots.
● GOATS or mechanical MOWING
Each work on the same principle: Removing the plant’s leaves so the roots eventually die from carbohydrate starvation. Without leaves, the plant can’t turn sunlight into food through photosynthesis and the root eventually starves.
Both mowers and goats must be brought back often, and both have the same drawback – and both have the same drawback – *they also mow down everything in their path.” (*We take exception to this statement. Before each job, we will discuss with you what to expect.  Please make sure to read About our Services )
● ROUND-UP (herbicide) works only when it is applied in the fall.
● CROSSBOW (herbicide) : The downside is that Crossbow is oil-based, which means it evaporates when the temperature rises above 50 – 60 degrees and can blow onto adjacent vegetation or into creeks.
● REDEEM (commercial name for the herbicide GARLON) : only sold in large quantities

00The biggest ingredient in the blackberry battle is persistence and vigilance.
After you’ve killed the blackberry plants, plant hardy alternative vegetation so the new plants crowd or shade out any new blackberry seedlings.
00“You can’t treat a patch of blackberries and then walk away”, Aldrich-Markham said. “All the control methods can take several years at least. Don’t take a break and let the blackberries regain their strength by diverting food reserves to their roots.”