Berry-picking season is upon us, and one of the tastiest roadside treats is wineberry, Rubus phoenicolasius, a native of China that was imported to the U.S. and — as often happens — escaped and now lines many fields and roadsides in the Southeast. The fruits grow in bunches, a few maturing at a time. They’re easy to pick — each “berry” pops off its central core and makes its way to your mouth in a flash.
Like most blackberries and raspberries, this plant bears lots of spines, and wineberry’s fruit-surrounding calyx is covered in gland-tipped hairs. Botanically, the fruit is an aggregate of drupes, not technically a berry. (Tomatoes and blueberries, on the other hand, are true berries.) But that distinction is immaterial to those who discover a wineberry patch in fruit. (“A rose by any other name . . .”)
It was a bit disappointing to find this plant growing beside a field in Lost Cove earlier this week. Not even that remote corner of the Domain is immune to invading exotics. But what can you do? It’s best just to take advantage of the moment and enjoy the yummy fruits while they last!