Plant Profile – Native Raspberry

These delicious berries take their time to become truly ripe. When they are they almost fall off the vine when touched.

Did you know that Australia has eight native raspberry species? All adapted to our climates and varying in taste, they are a great choice for a bush tucker garden. One of the most palatable and abundant, in terms of fruit, is Rubus probus or Atherton Raspberry.

A Native Stingless Bee harvesting pollen from a flower. The five petals contrast delightfully with the five sepals forming a star shape.

Also known as:

  • Rubus probus
  • Atherton Raspberry
  • Rubus muelleri 
  • Rubus fraxinifolius (now accepted as the name for a different species in Asia)

Growing conditions:

  • Full sun/part shade (prefers full sun)
  • Well-drained soil
  • A vigourous grower that can be confined to a large pot
  • Will climb a trellis
  • Scrambling habit
  • Flowers in Spring/Summer and Fruits Summer/Autumn, but can be variable and flower and fruit at any time of year

Propagation

  • Fresh seed (benefits from cold stratification – one month at 3 degrees Celsius)
  • Cuttings from firm new growth
  • Layering – tip layering
  • Division
The flowers have five petals but they inevitably get damaged by heavy traffic and wind. Here you can see an ant and a Native Stingless Bee harvesting pollen.

“Mummy! There’s a ripe Raspberry!” No plant in my garden gets more visits from my children than our Native Raspberry when it is fruiting. At the beginning of the season it’s sweetly frustrating as the berries ripen individually limiting harvest to one berry every two or three days. But hey, it’s teaching them (and us) patience and rewarding with healthy snacks. Red doesn’t necessarily mean ripe either. You’ll know they are fully ripe when they seem to be almost falling off the vine at a touch. Interestingly they also go through a “plumping” stage just before they ripen, growing by one and a half times the original size overnight. Their taste is sharper than commercial Raspberries that you buy at the store, but it is by no means unpleasant. A healthy plant in good conditions can produce up to three kilograms in a season. That’s a lot of raspberries!

Our Native Raspberry is planted in a large terracotta pot to prevent its growth becoming an impenetrable thicket. Its flexible green stems are covered in small thorns that will grip and climb a trellis, but ours is freestanding and is currently almost three metres tall. The long flexible stems insist on climbing the nearby ginger plants and grab us with their thorns as we walk past. Time for relocation? Probably, but I need to consider the best location. They do lose leaves when the weather cools and they fruit best with regular moisture and light fertilizer, so I like to have them in a location where I can monitor them closely.

Overnight this berry “plumped” growing half as big again. This is another indication that it is ripe.

This species is found across Northern Australia and in parts of Papua New Guinea. The young leaves and shoots are also edible, however I am yet to sample them. I know that wallabies can strip a young plant back to stalks, so they obviously enjoy the leaves and shoots! Truth be told we are happy to just have the berries which live up to their latin name “probus” or “good”. In fact they are so good that many people have to cover them in bird netting to get any harvest at all.

The canes of the plant can be hard to find in a large thicket.

Native Raspberries are somewhat drought tolerant and have survived the dry seasons in their partial shade position. Perhaps they might have fruited better in full sun, but they may not have survived the dry weather. Being a predominantly tropical and subtropical species, they are very tolerant of hot, humid weather and, if protected from frost, they will even grow in temperate zones.

When you pick the raspberries you may notice white pith in the centre. This can be eaten or discarded, but if you’re making jam make sure the pectin rich pith goes into the mix to help the jam set!

Handy Tips from the Garden Rooms!

Wondering where to buy them? I got mine at Lamington Native Nursery. Every plant that I purchased there has thrived.

If you have the space for a large pot or a dedicated patch, this is a great plant for an edible or permaculture garden!

Wishing you abundant harvests,

Jane Grows Garden Rooms

PS This plant is on my Ten Australian Bush Food Plants for Your Garden list. Click here to read the full article.

References:

Useful Tropical Plants

Australian Native Plants Society (Australia)

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