THE BRAMBLE IN OCTOBER.
THE flora of the year is past
Adown the lanes I ramble,
The faded leaves are falling fast,
Yet jetty hangs the Bramble.
Its blossoms still are silken white,
And black, and red, and green,
Its berries dangle with delight
Fit jewels for a queen.
The Hazel all its nuts hath shed
In many a cozy nook,
And all the flowers have gone to bed
And closed is Flora’s book.
But still the Bramble’s raven eye
Doth glance beneath the bracken,
And many a bank doth beautify
By every flower forsaken.
– James Rigg
The ubiquitous bramble. The plant which bears the fruit that most of us know as blackberries. These juicy berries are also known as blackbides, blackbutters, blackites and scald berries depending on where you are. Another important bit of regional info you might want to check out is the date after which you should no longer pick them. This varies across the UK and it is said the reason you should not pick them is because the devil will have claimed them as his own by spitting on them.
Blackberries have been eaten for thousands of years and are eaten as they are, used in baking and turned into wine. They are the quintessential foraging food. Even if you have done no foraging in your life, there’s still a pretty high chance you’ll have picked blackberries. Eating them straight off the bush, getting purple fingers and juice dripping down your clothes, perhaps staining them to much your parent’s annoyance… This is a tough plant to erase. Once it’s found a home, it’s there to stay. Whether that is a patch of overgrown land or your nice white tshirt. According to some traditions, a blackberry’s deep purple colour represents Christ’s blood.
The way the bramble grows creates an almost impenetrable thicket. They have long, thorny, arching shoots and they set up home easily. Once established, they’re incredibly difficult to eradicate. This is a plant of tenacity and determination. Willpower is another word which springs to mind as does perseverance.
The prickly bushes line the sides of roads, paths and inhabit overgrown areas, reclaiming the land. They are plants of the hedgerow, accompanying the traveller on their journey. The bramble is the wayfarers constant companion. But because they are so common, they quickly become overlooked. Like the woodpigeon, we stop seeing their wonder and beauty and the fruits they bear because they become background noise.
These well recognised plants are used in healing as well as for food. Their leaves are said to aide headaches, their fruits to help sore throats and folk medicine practitioners are said to have used bramble arches in their healing.
It is, perhaps understandable, bad luck to give a woman a sprig of brambles… That said, we give roses… In terms of the language of flowers, giving brambles signifies envy and jealousy. I’m thinking if you’re determined to gift bramble to someone, you’d be best sticking with the fruit…
Which brings us onto the thorns. Whilst it is generous of the bramble to provide us with blackberries, we must earn them and not take frivolously or beyond what we need. The thorns keep us in check, managing our greed and our lust. Blackberries ripen at harvest time, a time of abundance and gathering, calling on us to manage our own balance of preparedness and greed.
The bramble, with it’s power of entanglement, is perhaps asking us to think about how entwined we have become with material possessions. It may be suggesting we stand our own ground, standing firm and sure. Or perhaps it’s as simple as inviting us to step out onto the paths and forage for these delicious delicacies.
None of the above should be considered medical advice, do not eat anything unless you’ve done your research. Plants go by different names in different places and have different properties at different times of year. Some of the possible uses of this plant have come from folklore and should not be taken as fact.