Blackberries everywhere

Growing up south of Seattle, one of the omnipresent features were the blackberries — everywhere I walked, along the roads, in abandoned fields, along the railroad tracks, there were these impenetrable walls of blackberry brambles. They were a nuisance, but it was great in August because it was like all the paths were lined with candy, you could just pluck huge quantities of fat berries while hardly trying.

But today I read about the history of blackberries in that area, and it starts out disappointing — they’re non-native, introduced by Luther Burbank — but it just keeps getting more OH NO LUTHER YOU DIDN’T.

He started selling a new book that he’d written in his catalogs, The Training of the Human Plant.

Burbank wrote that the crossing, elimination and refining of human strains would result in “an ultimate product that should be the finest race ever known.”

He considered the U.S. the perfect place to practice eugenics, because, at the turn of the century, there were immigrants coming from all over the world. He wrote:

“Look at the material on which to draw. Here is the North, powerful, virile, aggressive, blended with the luxurious, ease-loving, more impetuous South.

“The union of great native mental strength, developed or undeveloped, with bodily vigor, but with inferior mind.”


  1. smellyoldgit says

    Blackberries located below the height of a dog’s bladder should be steered well clear of ….

  2. mikehuben says

    I have fond memories of my first visit to Seattle (40 years ago) in August. I made 6 bottles of blackberry jam which I then gave to my friends and relatives.

    Next time I’ll strain out the seeds to make it even better.

  3. sarah00 says

    I was an excellent blackberry year here (southwest UK) this year and I have a freezer full of blackberries now. I also have a jar of blackberry gin doing its thing and some blackberry and crab apple jelly waiting to be gifted as christmas presents.

  4. hemidactylus says

    I put blueberry syrup on my oatmeal every morning. PZ’s OP may in effect rubus the wrong way, but thinking of trying blackberry syrup now.

  5. unclefrogy says

    Burbank wrote that the crossing, elimination and refining of human strains would result in “an ultimate product that should be the finest race ever known.”

    maybe at some time in the future but it seems to the height of hubris to think we could actually do that or that we know enough about the human genome to do that for some ideal of “finest race” what ever that means. It does have the smell of Victorian ignorance about the whole idea. genteel racism
    uncle frogy

  6. wzrd1 says

    Blackberries are a major scourge on the South US.
    Why, the homeless eat them!
    We need to eliminate them.

    The first two are actually true, I’d happily go to war against any group wanting to steal that modest food source from the homeless.
    Given, when I was direly ill, that was a major food source.
    Yes, I was homeless, along with my disabled wife.
    I was seriously ill, a loophole in the system allowed me to be treated enough to keep my wife alive, as well as myself.
    But, I honestly did consider sharing specific thermonuclear x-ray laser designs.
    It was that bad. Near abdominal aortic aneurysm, still damned close, watchful waiting.
    Because, we love veterans, right until we cost money to support, given three decades of support, while watching budget shrink massively, including our first year of the wars.
    Then, we love veterans to sell off their support to civilian practices, who largely have precisely zero ideas, thinking civilian treatment works, likely via opioids.
    Yeah, it’s that dark here.

    As for x-ray laser, ancient news, it even has sparse mention on Wikipedia. Where it is, how it works and some delays some into play.
    Not going into that, at all, ever.

  7. Thomas Scott says

    Sadly, the Northwest’s small native blackberries are being out competed by Burbank’s Giant Himalayan. The native berry is almost impossible to find any more.
    The Himalayans have nearly no flavor compared with the native berries

  8. PaulBC says

    Burbank’s most famous obsession was the spineless prickly pear cactus. I forget why, but I read about it a long time ago. Prickly pears weren’t quite the solution to all of society’s ills that he thought they were. I didn’t know he was interested in eugenics, but it’s not a huge surprise.

  9. Jazzlet says

    Watching time-lapse film of blackberries growing illustrates one reason they are such effective competitors.

  10. says

    So what I’m getting from this is Luther thought the great white nordic race and the Himalayan Blackberry are better than the natives and the native blackberries and deserve to prosper. Reality is their both a bit of an invasive pest.

  11. lumipuna says

    Apparently, Burbank was a pioneer in modern scientific plant breeding. However, the article seems to say that his “Himalayan Blackberry” was either a wild strain or a traditional cultivated strain he simply selected from Asian seed collection material.