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Rubus idaeus
Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus. Synonym: Rubus strigosus. (Wild Raspberry)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Openings, scree. Summer.
Lower Scotch Creek Road, June 25, 2000.

Sometimes in dense patches, sometimes sparsely scattered, Wild Raspberries are common in the San Juans and other mountains of the Four Corners area. Their berries ripen in late summer/fall and in good years can be enjoyed by the handful. Too often, however, bushes bear few fruits and, even more often, wild critters get the fruits before humans do.  

"Rubus", the ancient Latin name for the plant, describes the color of the berries: red.  "Idaeus" honors Mount Ida, south of the ancient city of Troy.  This plant was named Rubus idaeus by Linnaeus in 1753 and it has had dozens of names since then.  The North American variety of this species is very similar to the European one that Linnaeus saw.

Rubus idaeus
Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus. Synonym: Rubus strigosus. (Wild Raspberry)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Openings, scree. Summer.
Horse Creek Trail, June 21, 2005.

Rubus idaeus

Rubus idaeus

Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus. Synonym: Rubus strigosus. (Wild Raspberry)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Openings, scree. Summer.
Horse Creek Trail, June 21, 2005.

Rubus idaeus

Rubus idaeus

Rubus idaeus ssp. strigosus. Synonym: Rubus strigosus. (Wild Raspberry)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Openings, scree. Summer.
Horse Creek Trail, October 8, 2014.

Rubus nutkanus

Rubus nutkanus

Rubus nutkanus. Synonyms: Rubus parviflorus variety parviflorus, Rubacer parviflorus. (Thimbleberry, Salmonberry)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands, disturbed areas. Spring, summer.
Above and left: West Mancos Trail, June 24, 2008.

Everything about this Rubus is big: it grows in extensive patches, it sometimes reaches six feet tall, its leaves are commonly 6-8 inches wide, its flowers are several inches in diameter, and its berries are up to 3/4 inch wide with a very big rich fruity taste.

"Ruber" means "red’ which the fruits definitely are, and "acer" refers to the maple-like leaf. (Acer is a large genus formerly in the Maple Family (Aceraceae).

Linnaeus named the Rubus genus in 1753.  For over 200 years it was thought that Thomas Nuttall was the first to correctly name the species shown at left for science; he found the plant in 1810 on Mackinac Island and named it Rubus parviflorus in his 1818 Genera of North American Plants. (Click the title to read.) However, Research published by Abraham van de Beek in 2016 (see page 48) pointed out that the Rubus parviflorus name had previously been assigned to a European species of Rubus by Weston in 1770 and therefore Nuttall's Rubus parviflorus species name is illegitimate. (Also note that Meriwether Lewis had collected this species prior to Nuttall on April 15, 1806 at the Dalles of Oregon. Click to read why Lewis' collection is not considered the type specimen.)

The first validly published name for the species shown at left is Rubus nutkanus, given in 1825 by famed botanist, Jose Mociño, for plants he collected on Nootka Island, part of Vancouver Island, now part of British Columbia. See p. 460 of Rogers McVaugh's Botanical Results of the Sessé and Mociño Expedition (1787-1803): VII: A Guide to Relevant Scientific Names of Plants, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. (The Spanish Sessé and Mociño Expedition explored from Central America to Alaska for flora (7,500 plants collected) and fauna.)

The name and description of Mociño's collection were published by Augustus de Candolle in 1825. Click for the drawing of the Mociño type specimen from the Field Museum collection.

NOTE: When I checked the authoritative Flora of North America in December of 2021, it had Rubus nutkanus as the accepted name for the species shown here. I emailed botanists at the FNA regarding some small irregularities in their discussion of R. nutkanus, the FNA botanists said they would look into these, and they also informed me of a proposal made in 2019 to maintain the name of Rubus parviflorus. I was told that a decision regarding the proposal would be made in at least a year by a committee of the INTERNATIONAL CODE OF BOTANICAL NOMENCLATURE. However, a week later the specific epithet on the FNA web page had been changed from R. nutkanus back to R. parviflorus and the new page does not mention R. nutkanus at all, not even as a synonym. The result of all of this is that for some period of time we will find some floras using Rubus parviflorus and some using Rubus nutkanus.

Rubus nutkanus

Rubus parviflorus

Rubus nutkanus. Synonyms: Rubus parviflorus variety parviflorus, Rubacer parviflorus. (Thimbleberry, Salmonberry)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands, disturbed areas. Spring, summer.
Ouray Perimeter Trail, September 30, 2010 and
Horse Creek Trail, October 8, 2014.

Fall colors of Rubus nutkanus are subtle yellows and golden-browns.

Rubus nutkanus
Rubus nutkanus. Synonyms: Rubus parviflorus variety parviflorus, Rubacer parviflorus. (Thimbleberry, Salmonberry)
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands, disturbed areas. Spring, summer.
West Mancos Trail, June 24, 2008.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Rubus idaeus  

Range map for Rubus parviflorus