Hot summer days, days when the temperature is above 80 and billowy white clouds build in the sky, are days to go raspberry and blackberry picking. We don’t have far to go. We just have to go out around our pasture. Raspberries and blackberries grow along the fence, intermingled with multiflora rose, Virginia creeper and poison ivy.
Many people don’t have far to go to pick raspberries or blackberries. They are widespread and common along many country roads and around farmers’ fields. Berry bushes pop up in fallow fields. They grow almost every place that is not mowed regularly and one plant, if not cut, becomes a thorny thicket, a briar patch in a few seasons. The berry bushes, multiflora, creeper and poison ivy have become so thick around our pasture that they hide the fence.
Thickets of wild berries, briar patches and brambles, provide shelter as well as food for many species of wildlife. Within a briar patch song birds are safe from Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks. These feathered predators can pursue a bird through the branches of a woods but not through the tangled, thorny canes of a raspberry or blackberry patch. While birds find shelter within the branches, rabbits get shelter beneath the branches. The rabbits travel freely under the thorny canes but foxes and coyotes, dogs and cats can not.
Birds are responsible for the spread and wide distribution of wild berries. Birds eat the berries and digest the pulp but not the seeds. Those pass through. During berry season whenever, wherever a bird perches it drops seeds of wild berries. Raspberries and black- berries sprout quickly along fences because catbirds, robins, brown thrashers, song sparrows and other birds perching on the fences drop seeds there, plant them there.
Wild raspberries and blackberries are drying now, shriveling. For us the berry season is nearly over. Picking takes longer because we select only the fatter, juicier berries. It’s often necessary to push farther into a berry patch, to incur more scratches. Birds and other wildlife are not as selective. They go on picking, eating as long as there are any raspberries or blackberries left.
Even when the berries are gone, catbirds, robins, cardinals, brown thrashers and other birds will find shelter among the branches of raspberries and blackberries and rabbits will find shelter beneath the branches.