Thimbleberry
Rubus parviflorus Nutt.
Family: Rosaceae, Rose
Genus: Rubus
Synonyms: Rubus strigosus
Other names: western thimbleberry
Nomenclature: parviflorus = small flowered
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Edible plant
Medicinal plant
Description

General: upright non-spiny shrub 50-200 cm tall, very short-hairy and with stalked glands, eventually almost hairless and with gray, flaking bark.

Leaves: alternate, with membranous, lanceolate stipules and stalks with stalked glands. The blades with cordate bases, palmately 3-7-lobed, mostly 6-15 cm long and somewhat broader, doubly sharp-toothed, hairless to somewhat hairy.

Flowers: mostly 3-7 in terminal flat-topped clusters. Petals usually 5 (6-7), white, obovate, 15-25 mm long. Calyx short- to long-hairy, often with stalked glands, the 5 (6-7) lobes spreading, oblong-ovate, 10-18 mm long, tipped with a slender appendage about half the total length. Stamens numerous. Pistils numerous, ovary short-hairy above but the style hairless, 1-1.5 mm long. May-July.

Fruits: red, fleshy drupelets, coherent as a thimble-like aggregate fruit, hairy, 15-20 mm wide.


Distribution

Open to wooded, moist to dry places from the plains to subalpine mountain slopes, in w., c. and se. parts of MT. Also from AK to CA, WY, CO, NM, and the Dakotas.
Edible Uses

The fruits - thimbleberries - are delicious, raw or cooked. They make excellent jams and preserves. The fruits can also be dried for later use, they are very seedy, and rich in vitamin C. Young shoots can be peeled and eaten cooked or raw. The shoots are harvested as they emerge in the spring, and while they are still young and tender. They can be cooked like asparagus and are rich in vitamin C too. The flowers are edible raw.



Medicinal Uses

The leaves are a blood tonic, and have agents that prevent or alleviate nausea and vomiting, that cause tissue to contract, and give strength and tone to the stomach. A tea is used internally in the treatment of stomach complaints, diarrhea and dysentery, anemia, the spitting up of blood and to treat vomiting. A tea has been taken by women when their periods are unusually long. A poultice of the dried powdered leaves has been used to treat wounds and burns. The leaves have been crushed and rubbed over the skin to treat pimples and blackheads. A poultice of the leaf ashes, mixed with oil, has been used to treat swellings. The young shoots have agents that gradually restore health and are effective against scurvy. The roots are an appetizer, tonic, and have agents that cause tissue to contract, and that give strength and tone to the stomach. A tea has been used by thin people to help them gain weight. A tea has also been used in the treatment of stomach disorders, diarrhea and dysentery. A decoction of the roots has been taken in the treatment of pimples and blackheads.



Other Uses

The leaves have been used to line baskets etc for carrying soft fruit or other delicate items. A soap can be obtained from the boiled bark, and a purple to dull blue dye obtained from the fruit.


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