NC State Extension Publications

Introduction

The caneberry (blackberry and raspberry) industry has undergone a significant change in the southern United States in the past decade. The development of shipping-quality, fresh market blackberry cultivars, along with recognition of the health benefits associated with eating berries, have facilitated the phenomenal growth of this industry in the region. Since the late 1990s, the acreage devoted to caneberries has increased throughout the southern United States in all grower categories:

  • small-scale (less than 3-acre farms) for local and pick-your-own (PYO) sales
  • medium-scale (commercial local sales and PYO)
  • large-scale (farms of 5 to 10 or more acres that produce fruits for wholesale marketing)

In addition, the development of raspberry cultivars from US and international breeding programs has prompted growers to investigate the possibility of local and commercial raspberry production in new regions, particularly at high elevations, using high tunnels and other seasonal-extension techniques.

This guide was created to provide growers information on plant growth and basic production practices. Pest management for caneberry growing in the southern United States is available in the Southeast Regional Caneberries Integrated Management Guide, available at the Southern Region Small Fruits Consortium’s IPM/Production Guides web page. The pest management guide is updated regularly to provide the most up-to-date crop protectant information for growers in the southern United States.

Types of Caneberries

Caneberries are grouped by four plant characteristics:

  • growth habit (trailing, semi-erect, or erect)
  • fruiting habit (primocane or floricane)
  • presence or absence of thorns (thorny or thornless)
  • fruit color (raspberries only)

Growth Habit

There are three main types of growth habits: trailing, erect, and semi-erect (Figure 1). These habits refer specifically to cane growth habit.

Canes of trailing caneberries run along the ground. Trailing blackberries, often referred to as “dewberries” have prostrate canes that tend to produce fruit that are large, early-ripening, and some say are highly flavored. Though trailing raspberry varieties do exist, they are not readily available.

Erect caneberries produce stiff, upright canes that need summer and winter pruning. The erect growth habit is common in both raspberries and fresh market blackberries.

Semi-erect caneberries produce very thick, arching canes that benefit from summer and winter pruning. These varieties will start growing upright and bend over to trail along the ground if not supported. Black raspberries tend to be semi-erect and will tip root if not pruned adequately, limiting fruit production on said canes.

Growth habit determines the type of trellis support the canes require. In some regions, erect types of both raspberries and blackberries do not require trellis support. In the southern United States, however, blackberries and raspberries benefit from a trellis for commercial production. Support becomes essential once laterals begin producing fruit. Without adequate trellising, laterals or entire canes can snap under the weight of fruit load due to windy conditions or while being picked. Fruit may also touch the ground if not trellised, which may result in the loss of saleable fruit.

Figure 1.

Figure 1. Caneberries have varying growth habits, from erect types to more trailing types, which determine the type of trellising system needed. Most commercial varieties have an erect growth habit.

Fruiting Habit

Though caneberries are perennial plants, canes of blackberries and raspberries are biennial—that is, they have two-year life cycles (see Table 1, Figure 2, and Figure 3). Most blackberry and some raspberry cultivars are floricane-fruiting, meaning they will bear a crop in their second year of life and in subsequent years.

Table 1. Characteristics of the two caneberry fruiting types.
Floricane-Fruiting Primocane-Fruiting
First Year
Vegetative growth of cane Bear fruit in upper third to half of cane in late summer and fall
Fruiting portion of cane dies in fall
Second Year
Flowering and fruiting
Cane death
Lower portions of cane fruits
Entire cane dies after fruiting
Common Cultivars
Most cultivars of blackberries, black and purple raspberries, some red and yellow raspberries. Some red and yellow raspberries, some new blackberry varieties.


The first year of a cane’s growth is referred to as the primocane year. During this year, the cane will grow and initiate fruit buds in the latter part of summer to early fall.

During the second year of growth, known as the floricane year, primocanes from the first year are now the floricanes, which will bloom and produce fruit on short laterals arising from axillary buds. Following fruiting, the floricanes will die back to the crown.

Both primocanes and floricanes will exist in the planting starting in the second year and every year thereafter. The planting will produce a full crop in the third year.

Several cultivars of red and yellow raspberries and some blackberries will bear fruit in the upper portions of the primocanes during the cane’s first year of growth. These cultivars are referred to as “primocane-fruiting,” “everbearing,” or “fall-bearing.” The upper one-third to one-half of the primocane will bear fruit beginning in late summer and continue producing into fall. If the cane is retained for the floricane year, fruiting will occur on the part of the cane that did not fruit in the fall.

Photo of primocane leaves.

Figure 2. Primcoane leaves have five leaflets. In the spring and early summer, primocane foliage is usually succulent and bright green.

Gina Fernandez, NC State University

Photo of floricane leaves.

Figure 3. Floricane leaves have three leaflets. Leaves are small and darker than primocane leaves. Left: Fruit is present in the axils of the leaves. Right: Floricane leaflet from a basal bud with leaflets and flower buds.

Thorniness

Thorny and thornless cultivars are available for both primocane- and floricane-fruiting types of caneberries. Most commercial blackberry growers in the South plant thornless cultivars because they are easier to manage. Most raspberry cultivars adapted to the southern United States have thorns, but the thorns are not as large as blackberry thorns and are not a significant impediment during harvest or when pruning.

Raspberries can produce red, yellow, purple, or black fruits (Figure 4). Red raspberries are by far the most common type and, in general, the most widely adapted for commercial production. Yellow and purple raspberries are not recommended for commercial production because available cultivars are highly perishable and do not produce high yields. Black raspberries do well in cooler parts of the region.

Figure 4. Raspberry fruit color and shape can vary.

Figure 4. Raspberry fruit color and shape can vary from cultivar to cultivar. Colors range from yellow to red and even black.

Absalom Shank, NC State

Fruit Color (Raspberries)

Raspberries can produce red, yellow, purple, or black fruits (Figure 4). Red raspberries are by far the most common type and, in general, the most widely adapted for commercial production. Yellow and purple raspberries are not recommended for commercial production because available cultivars are highly perishable and do not produce high yields. Black raspberries do well in cooler parts of the region.

Authors:

Extension Specialist (Small Fruits)
Horticultural Science
Professor
University of Arkansas
Professor
University of Tennessee

Publication date: Oct. 26, 2015
AG-697

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