ISSN 1188-603X

No. 230 August 25, 1999 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2


From: Adolf Ceska []

Himalayan blackberry is the most common introduced blackberry in British Columbia. This species is an aggressive invader that was introduced for its excellent fruit and has become naturalized in many parts of the world. In the Pacific Northwest it occurs from California to British Columbia. Several scientific names have been used for this plant. In North America it has been most often called "Rubus procerus" or "Rubus discolor."

Eurasian blackberries are an extremely variable complex of small apomictic species. The original Linnaean "Rubus fruticosus L." has been treated as a broad complex of many species that belong into several sections and subsections. "Rubus crux botanicorum - Rubus is the botanists' cross," was the saying I heard from my first botany teacher who gave up, trying to understand this complex. The study of this genus has developed into a special branch of plant taxonomy called batology (from the Greek "batos" - bramble), and batologists are botanists devoted to this study. Two European batologists, Dr. Josef Holub in the Czech Republic and Prof. H.E. Weber in Germany helped me to answer the question of the correct name for our Himalayan Blackberries. [Dr. Holub died of a heart attack on July 17, 1999, while he was on a botanical field trip.]

Last year I sent several specimens of our Himalayan blackberries to Dr. Holub and he identified them as Rubus armeniacus Focke. Dr. H.E. Weber also identified Rubus armeniacus on his earlier trip to the Pacific Northwest:

"Rubus armeniacus Focke is, indeed, a troublesome weed in the Pacific Northwest. I saw it first there at the freight depot in Vancouver and later at many other places locally covering hectares of (waste) ground in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. In California it is rarer and seems not to go south beyond San Francisco." (H.E. Weber, pers.comm. 1998)

"The plant is native to Armenia and was for the first time introduced to Germany about 1835 by Booth, named 'Rubus fruticosus fr. maximo Booth' and, because of its large, sweet fruits, became the most frequently cultivated blackberry in Europe. Obviously it was introduced to America 1885 by Luther Burbank, and before 1885 to New Zealand. The cultivar 'Theodore Reimers' is not markedly different from the wild plant as represented by the garden escapes." (H.E. Weber, pers.comm. 1998) Rubus armeniacus is "a common garden escape in nearly all European countries (including the British Isles and, of course, northern Germany). It occurs locally plentiful on railway embankments, waste ground, etc., somewhere also established in the wild. Moreover it is a garden escape e.g. in New Zealand, Australia (seemingly not in its typical form there), S-Africa, etc." (H.E. Weber, pers.comm. 1999).

Rubus armeniacus has been for a long time erroneously called either Rubus procerus or R. discolor. According to Dr. Holub and Dr. Weber, Rubus procerus Muller is not a valid name since it is a younger taxonomic synonym of R. praecox Bertol. "Rubus praecox is an European species that ranges from central Germany to Spain, Italy, Austria, to the northern Balkan states, and to the Ukraine. It does not occur in the British Isles and in northern Europe. It occurs solely as an indigenous species living in the wild, i.e., it's NOT a weedy species." (H.E. Weber, pers.comm., 1999)

The other name occasionally used for the Himalayan blackberry, Rubus discolor Weihe & Nees, has to be treated as a synonym of another European species, Rubus ulmifolius Schott. It is an illegitimate, superfluous name, since in their description of Rubus discolor, Weihe & Nees cited also the type of Rubus ulmifolius - cf. Art. 52.1 & 52.2 of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (Dr. Holub, pers. comm., 1998).

In the Pacific Northwest the name Rubus armeniacus has been correctly applied to the Himalayan blackberry by Dr. Kim Hummer, who gave the history of this species in North America at the following web site:

Acknowledgements: In this note I have summarized my correspondence with Drs. Josef Holub, Kim Hummer, & Heinrich E. Weber. I greatly acknowledge all the information I had received from them about this topic.


The University of Alaska Museum and Department of Biology and Wildlife seek qualified applicants for a tenure track position as Curator of the Herbarium and Assistant Professor.

The appointee is expected to curate and develop the herbarium, teach one course per year (systematic botany or course in an area of specialty), supervise graduate students, and establish a vigorous, extramurally funded research program complementing evolutionary and plant biology at UAF. The position will be affiliated with the Institute of Arctic Biology. The herbarium comprises the largest collection of Alaska vascular plants. Available facilities ( include: core DNA laboratory, spatial ecology laboratory, supercomputer, a modern greenhouse, and collaboration with the Bonanza Creek Long-Term Ecological Research site. Applicants with experience in managing and using traditional museum collections; a background in comparative biology and theory of phylogenetic analysis; and experience in using molecular techniques are preferred. A completed Ph.D. is mandatory and post-doctoral experience is preferred.

A Collection Manager, laboratory space and start-up funds are included. The appointment should begin in August, 2000.

Send applications including statements of research interest, teaching philosophy, and curatorial experience, curriculum vitae and three letters of reference by September 3, 1999 to:


BEN would like to draw your attention to the following article published in the British Medical Journal:

Siegel-Itzkovich, Judy. 1999.
Viagra makes flowers to stand up straight. British Medical Journal 319 (No. 7205 - July 31, 1999): 274.

According to this article, Viagra (sildenafil citrate) is good not only for treating male impotence. Israeli and Australian researchers have discovered that small concentrations of the drug dissolved in a vase of water can also double the shelf life of cut flowers, making them stand up straight for as long as a week beyond their natural life span.

Professor Yaacov Leshem, a plant researcher at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, and Professor Ron Wills of the food technology department of the University of Newcastle, Australia, have already tested Viagra on strawberries, legumes, roses, carnations, broccoli, and other perishables. In this latest research they found that 1 mg of the drug (compared with 50 mg in one pill taken by impotent men) in a solution was enough to prevent two vases of cut flowers from wilting for as much as a week longer than might be expected.

They have also patented a safe, cheap process for increasing the shelf life of fruit, vegetables, and cut flowers using nitric oxide. An unexpected finding of Professor Leshem's group is that Viagra has a similar effect on plant ripening. It increases the vase life of flowers by retarding the breakdown of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) (the production of which is mediated by nitric oxide).

For the full text of this article see