Rubus is a large genus of about 250 species found in many parts of the world. They are often known as brambles because of the rambling, prickly nature of the arching stems of some species. The best known members of the genus are probably the blackberry, raspberry, loganberry and youngberry. The blackberry (Rubus fruticosus and related species) has become a serious weed in temperate parts of Australia because its seeds are spread by birds and the nature of the plant makes it resistant to control by grazing animals.
Rubrus moluccanus is a tall, scrambling shrub or climber which can form thickets over 10 metres in height. It has stems with stiff prickles and oval to heart-shaped leaves which can reach 250 mm in diameter in some forms. The leaf margins are finely toothed. The white or pink flowers occur in spring and summer and are followed by the bright red fruits 10 – 30 mm in diameter. Given its wide distribution, R.moluccanus is quite variable with five taxonomic varieties recognised.
Because of its habit, this is not really a plant for the small home garden. It is a hardy plant for larger properties in a sunny position and it responds well to pruning so it can be kept to manageable proportions if regularly maintained. It requires adequate water and well drained soils to perform well. The fruit is edible but the presence of some hairs can be irritating.
The species can be grown from seed which does not require any special pre-treatment. However, germination may be slow. Propagation can also be carried out using cuttings of firm, current season’s growth.
Rubus moluccanus var. trilobus
Photo: Murray Fagg – Australian National Botanic Gardens