Habit: Rubus leucodermis is a deciduous shrub, with an arching habit, pretty flowers and tasty fruit. Numerous greenish to purple stems usually form dense thickets, and are covered with hooked thorns and a waxy white powdery coat. Compound leaves bearing 5 leaflets grow alternately along first year canes; 3 leaflets are more common on older, flowering canes. Leaflets are broadly ovate, sharply toothed, green and crinkly above but pale green and hairy below. The flowers are white to pink and nestle in the junction of leaves and stems in clusters of 3-7. Red berries that turn black as they ripen are arranged in drupelets, and when picked, their center core remains attached to the plant as happens with other raspberries.
Ecology: grows in open forests, burned woodlots and other disturbed sites in elevations up to 7,000 feet. It is scattered throughout the Pacific Northwest and eastward to Montana and Arizona.
Growing conditions: moist, well-drained medium, but it is adapted to a variety of soils. Rubus leucodermis often grows anywhere wild blackberries (R. ursinus) will spread their vines, and also produces a delicious edible fruit both to humans and wildlife. Yet, size and taste quality varies greatly depending on habitat and ripening conditions.
Besides mashing and preserving the berries in a dry cake for future consumption, Native Americans extracted a dark pigment from the fruit to make a stain. They also prepared infusions with the leaves and roots of the plant to treat stomach conditions. Rubus leucodermis is known by several common names, including black raspberry and blackcap.