When to pick blackberries: it’s time to crumble!

Lorienne Whittle, 09/08/2019

Have you picked your first blackberry of the year yet? Maybe even had enough for a crumble? Nature’s Calendar has had records of bramble first ripe fruit submitted throughout July. We take a look at the records over the last 10 years to see whether your autumn crumble may become a thing of the past.

Other July highlights include ripe rowan berries and an abundance of butterflies spotted on buddleias. Your photos are included in this monthly roundup of Nature’s Calendar news.

It’s time to crumble: blackberries are ripe to record (and eat!)

Nature’s Calendar records both first ripe fruit and amount of fruit for brambles. Of course the fruit are better known to many of us as blackberries, a well loved and tasty hedgerow treat. Looking back over the last ten years of Nature’s Calendar data, the average date for blackberries to be recorded as first ripe has varied considerably:

2018: 29 July

2017: 31 July

2016: 11 August

2015: 11 August

2014: 3 August

2013: 18 August

2012: 19 August

2011: 1 August

2010: 9 August

2009: 5 August

We have had over 60 records of first ripe bramble fruit submitted to Nature’s Calendar so far this season and expect many more in the coming weeks.

Will blackberry crumble become a summer pudding?

Blackberries ripen from July to mid-September, but for the last two years the average date for the records submitted to Nature’s Calendar has been in July. Local weather conditions are still hugely important, but it could be that blackberries are ripening earlier, in response to our changing climate. Nature’s Calendar allows us to track and analyse such trends. The more data we get the more reliable the results are. If you haven’t recorded a ripe bramble fruit yet, and regularly pass a bramble shrub, keep an eye out for that distinctive change of colour that indicates when the blackberry is perfectly ripe to record (and eat!).

Ripe blackberries tantalisingly out of reach (Photo: Emma Harries)

Green, red, black... and eat! (Photo: Jill Mews)

Reaching out to pick the first ripe blackberry (Photo: Lorienne Whittle)

If you haven’t got time to nip down to your favourite bramble patch to check the progress of the berries near you, take a look at our map. It updates as soon as records are submitted to Nature’s Calendar, so it will give you an idea of how ready blackberries are across the UK. 

As well as being free food and fun to pick, blackberries have a array of health benefits. They contain vitamins C and K as well as manganese and fibre. From cobblers to crumbles, flapjacks and muffins, our Nature Detectives webpage has some great blackberry recipes if you find a bumper crop. If you’re looking for wild ways to entertain the kids during the summer holidays then make the most of early crops by squashing the over ripe berries to make an excellent blackberry paint!

Lots of animals also like to feast on blackberries: badgers, foxes, dormice and many birds including finches, thrushes, blackcaps and crows. So when you’re out picking remember to leave plenty for wildlife too. You might spot when the animals consider blackberries to be ripe if you see the resulting purple droppings. The animals’ role is to disperse the bramble seeds, ensuring more brambles and hence food in the future too.

A very berry bounty

Other trees and shrubs have evolved to work in partnership with animals, producing berries as a way of getting their seeds dispersed far away from the parent plant. Rowan trees are an example, with wonderful bright red berries beginning to ripen at this time of year. The berries are a nutritious treat for birds such as red wings, fieldfares, thrushes, waxwings and blackbirds. The seeds cannot be digested however, and so come out the other end. In the meantime ripening rowans provide a feast for the eyes, as shown by some of the photos submitted last month.

First ripe fruit Berkshire (Photo: Michael Halliday)

First ripe fruit recorded in Wales (Photo: Ben Porter)

Amount of fruit Yorkshire (Photo: Victoria Heywood)

Over the last month we’ve also had first ripe records submitted for both elder and beech, so keep looking out for changes in these plants near you.

Elder berries ripen after exceptionally warm and wet weather (Photo: Judith Garforth)

First ripe beech nuts fall on a cricket field (Photo: Peter Gordon Smith)

The brilliance of buddleias

Buddleias are flowering around this time of year, supplying an important source of nectar for butterflies and other insects. Although an introduced species, this shrub spreads easily and can often be found on wasteground as well as parks and gardens. We’ve had a noticeable number of recorders commenting and adding photos of butterflies on buddleias. They are great for wildlife and make a great platform for butterfly spotting (and recording). Check out our blog for native species that are great for wildlife and suitable for most gardens.

Multiple species of butterflies can often be seen on one buddleia (Photo: Paula Atkinson)

A peacock butterfly on a buddleia (Photo: Caroline Brown)

A small tortoiseshell on the same buddleia (Photo: Caroline Brown)

Can you record the onset of autumn?

Whilst it was just last month I was writing about summer, over July there were definite signs of autumn arriving. As well as the first ripe berries and beech nuts mentioned above we’ve also had the first records of swifts leaving for warmer climes and a silver birch beginning to tint. Autumn is a wonderful time for trees in the UK and there’s plenty of time to choose a tree to watch through the changing seasons.

Check out our phenology calendar for the many species and their individual events that can be recorded on Nature’s Calendar.



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