Thursday, July 10, 2008

What's this?

For two days I've been searching white wildflower databases on the Internet and asking friends what they think this specimen is. It's about three feet tall, with half-dollar-sized flowers, and lives by our driveway on Lake Superior near Ontonagon in upper Michigan.

Friends have guessed dewberry and three-toothed cinquefoil. Photos on the Internet suggest it might be a toothed whitetop aster, a wood anemone, a beach strawberry -- and in a picture almost identical to the one I shot -- a California blackberry (Rubus ursinus). If it's really that last, it's waaaay east of its normal range on the West Coast and western intermountain states.

Can habitues of this blog come to my aid? There is no reward except the satisfaction of helping put a troubled mind to rest.


  1. immediate response: that's a thimbleberry. there's a type of aster here that is ordinarily blue but apparently (according to my botanist sister in law) quite variable, but the petals are more feathery.

    guess i'll go out of the office here and hit the shelves. more in a bit, i'm sure.

  2. flat topped aster blooms in late summer... but your picture doesn't look "flat topped."

    man, this looked easy at first.

  3. It looks like thimbleberry. You can tell for sure by looking at the leaves of the plant. They look like maple leaves on steroids, same shape but three times the size.

    Thimbleberries like cool moist areas and are predominantly found in the UP and the Pacific Northwest. The fruit look like a raspberry but they are hollow (thus the name thimbleberry). Picking the berries to make jam is a real chore. An hour of picking will barely bring enough to make a half pint of jam. The flavor is intense raspberry but you need to add quite a bit of sugar to cut the tartness.

    You can find large patches of thimbleberry at Bonanza Falls on the Big Iron and the west side of the Ontonagon River at the Victoria Bridge.

    Steve S

  4. Based on your extra information "it's about three feet tall, with half-dollar-sized flowers" I withdraw my first stab of the dewberry and reinsert the common blackberry instead (no need to introduce any exotic California variety - the UP has plenty of its own). Blackberry and dewberry blossoms are virtually identical. But blackberries usually grow much taller and are heavily defended by lethal thorns - though you make no mention of them in your description. Blackberries are plenty common around there. It certainly is not a thimbleberry which has much wider pedals and very distictive leaves. You can also nix aster,anemone, and strawberry all of which can be found thereabouts - but this one ain't any of them.

    Thimbleberries used to be much more plentiful around Green following the early logging operations and before the forests had regrown. The local farm kids used to pick them to sell to the seasonal beach folks. As pointed out in an earlier comment, the problem with picking thimbleberries is that they compact so much that no matter how many you pick your container never seems to fill up. One of those kids, having become impatient with his never ending chore, confessed some years later to stuffing the bottom half of his berry baskets with thimbleberry leaves and, thus, only had to fill the top half with berries. I don't suppose he made any repeat sales though.

  5. Later today, when the sun emerges, I'll take a photo of the plant with its leaves (which look almost like elm leaves) and post that. I hadn't realized that the leaves were an important aspect of identifying wildflowers.

  6. Green Hermit: Did that kid who stuffed the thimbleberry jars with leaves grow up to be the butcher with his thumb on the scale?

  7. They are blackberries. Which variety? No clue. We have them at our place on the big lake in WI. They make darned good wine if you can get enough... Thimble berry flowers have rounder petals, and the leaves look sort of like maple leaves in shape.
    Blackberry: (the elm shaped leaves are visible in the photo first photo under Growth and anatomical description).
    Thimbleberries: Sorry, you can't see the leaves in this photo, but they really do look like HUGE furry maple leaves. We have these at our cabin, as well.

  8. Maybe Friday's photo with the leaves will settle the matter: That the flower is indeed that of the common blackberry.

    I shall watch the plants closely to see if they do produce blackberries. Not that I will taste them without adult supervision.

  9. it almost looks like a Clematis plant to me.


    PS - did you find out what it is?