Wineberry has been cultivated in both Europe and North America in order to create hybrids with raspberries and for ornamental purposes. The plant has escaped from the gardens and is now adapted on both continents. In some parts of Europe and North America, it is considered to be an invasive species.
The wineberry is part of the Rubus genre, which also includes other plants with edible fruits such as the raspberry and the blackberry. It is also known as the wine raspberry and its Latin name (Rubus phoenicolasius) actually means a purple hair blackberry. The plant's stems are either upright or arching and they are covered with the red hair typical for the species, as well as small thorns. From the distance, the hairs make the bramble appear to have a red color. The length of the stems is variable but they can reach 9 feet in good locations.
The leaves of wineberry consist of three leaflets, with a heart shape and jagged edges. They are covered with a network of purple veins, while the underside is white. The bloom takes place in the spring, the small red flowers also being covered with red hairs. Flowers have both male and female organs and the pollination is done by insects. The edible fruit becomes ripe in June or July and is red, very similar in shape and structure to a raspberry.
The wineberry has a perennial root system but the canes that emerge from it only survive for two years before being replaced. The new stems are named primo canes and reach a height of 1 to 3 m in their first year, after a very strong growth. It doesn't develop branches and rarely has flowers but does have large leaves with three or five leaflets. In its second year of life, the stem rarely grows in height. However, it produces side branches with flowers and fruits. The leaves look different, with only tree leaflets and a white underside.
Flowers are located on short racemes always located at the end of side branches. The bloom happens at the end of spring and every flower consists of a calyx and five petals, with a red or pink color. The flower diameter is between 6 and 10 mm. Despite the name, the fruit is not considered a berry in scientific terms, just a number of small fruits (drupelets) linked by a central core. Fruits become ripe at the end of summer or early autumn and are edible, with a red or orange color and a diameter of about 1 cm. The distinctive feature of the wineberry is the red hair that covers its stem, which also gives the Latin name phoenicus, or red.
The wineberry has an interesting alternative propagation method. Besides the seeds, which are viable, the tips of stems that touch the soil can start new plants. Like all brambles, it enjoys wet areas and can be found at the edge of forests.
The wineberry fruits are protected by a calyx with hairs on its surface, which produce a sticky liquid in small amounts. This fluid can trap and kill insects but the plant is not a carnivorous species. The sticky sap doesn't have the power to digest them and the tissues are unable to assimilate their bodies. As a result, the wineberry can't get any nutrients or benefits from the dead insects. The wineberry grows on moist and fertile soils and needs no extra nitrogen, unlike carnivorous plants that must assimilate insects in order to compensate for very poor soils.
As a protection feature, spines can be found on the stems and also on the leaves. The leaves consist of three leaflets, with the middle one being much larger than the two on the sides. A compact layer of hair with a woolly appearance makes the underside of leaves appear white.
Wineberries are quite similar in taste to raspberries but are slightly sourer and contain more juice. The health benefits are equivalent to raspberries and are due to the rich amounts of antioxidants, fibers, vitamin C and minerals.
The main health benefit of wineberries is their strong anti-inflammatory effect. This is caused by a mix of compounds that reduce inflammation and increase the immune response, including vitamin C, vitamin E and a number of natural enzymes that boost the activity of the immune system. These compounds directly increase the production of cytokines, which are molecules used by the body to mark pathogens that are killed by the immune cells. As a result, consuming wineberries boosts immunity in general and is effective against all types of bacteria and viruses.
Like their name suggests, wineberries can also be made into a wine with important health effects. The wine is rich in a bioactive compound named quercetin, which can counter a wide range of poisons and toxins. Another compound found in wineberries is related to vitamin A and can improve eye health. Since they boost immunity, the berries are a counter for fevers, coughs and common cold.
The wineberry fruit is very sweet and juicy and can be consumed either raw or prepared. It is a very tasty fruit, even if the flavour is not as strong as the one of a raspberry. It is also smaller in size and has a larger number of seeds.
Wineberries should be consumed quickly because they don't last long. They can be stored in the fridge for a few days and can also be frozen for longer preservation. They are typically eaten fresh but can also be prepared as jam, wine, sauce, fruit salads or other desserts.
The wineberry can be found in fields and forests but it especially enjoys the edges of wetlands and woods. It also grows in savannas, prairies and along streams. The brambles provide shelter for many types of animals and birds.
In cultivation, the wineberry prefers light shade but can also be planted in full sun. Wineberry enjoys loamy ground with good drainage. The wineberry tolerates temperatures as low as -18°C but doesn't like strong winds. While it can be damaged by frost, it usually recovers. Wineberry is cultivated for its edible fruit, as well as the ornamental value. It is popular in gardens because the red stems provide color during the winter months. It is vulnerable to honey fungus, like other related species.
Wineberry can be propagated using seeds but stratification is needed. The best time to sow the seeds in a cold frame is at the start of autumn. If you plan to sow the seeds of wineberry in February or later, they should be stratified at 3°C for about one month. The seedlings have to be pricked as soon as they grow big enough. At the end of spring, you can relocate the plants from the cold frame to their final location. Tip layering can also be used for propagation during July, with planting in autumn and division next spring.