Common Name: Thimbleberry
Scientific Name: Rubus parviflorus
Description, Distribution, and Habitat
Rubus parviflorus is an erect shrub that grows between 1 and 1.5 metres tall along the coast of Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska in open sites from low to subalpine elevations. It can be found to grow taller within its inland range eastward across Canada and the northern mainland US states. It is characterize by large, bright green, maple leaf-shaped leaves that are quite fuzzy to the touch. These deciduous, fuzzy leaves are alternate and have 3 - 7 lobes per leaf. The flowers, blooming in late spring, are large and have a crinkled white paper appearance. The sweet berries that come from these flowers are bright red raspberry-like fruits that are domed like raspberries or blackberries.
R. parviflorus was an important plant for Coastal First Nations. All aerial parts of Thimbleberry are edible. The young shoots, as they come out of the ground in the spring, were harvested and eaten fresh as a green vegetable. Early European explorers told stories of seeing canoes travelling down river laden with fresh Thimbleberry shoots. The shoots have a tough outer skin that once peeled away reveals a soft inner stalk that has a taste similar to celery?. The berries were also an important edible part of R. parviflorus lending themselves nicely to drying. The Nuu-chah-nulth of western Vancouver Island made a layered cake with Thimbleberries and roasted clams. This cake was made by alternating skewers of roasted clams and Thimbleberries on a wooden plank. Once the layering was completed another plank was placed on top and stones were used to compress the cake into a loaf like formation. After this cake was sun-dried it was stored for later use. The berries were also eaten fresh by many First Nations, including the Nuxalk and the Kwakwaka'wakw. R. parviflorus has traditional uses along with its dietary uses. The leaves are used to alleviate the symptoms of nausea and indigestion. Externally the leaves have been used as a poultice to treat burns to minimize scarring. A cold wash made from the leaves can also be used for treatment of oily skin relieving visible symptoms of acne.
Bryce M Watts, BA Anthropology
Bryce’s background is in anthropology focusing specifically on ethnobotany and Traditional Ecological Knowledge. His most recent interests have turned towards ethical relationships between corporations and indigenous communities. So often in anthropology corporations are shown as exploitative entities that take from the most vulnerable and leave nothing of benefit behind. Through his work with Forager Farms Bryce is trying to create a structure for businesses to follow that involves all voices in planning and managing roles to ensure that everyone involved sees the benefits.