Rubus chamaemorus (Cloudberry)
|Also known as:||Baked-apple Berry|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; boreal forest openings, bogs, rock outcrops, mossy woods, peaty tundra|
|Bloom season:||June - July|
|Plant height:||8 to 12 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: none MW: none NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Flowers are single on a slender stalk at the tip of erect stems, blooming as leaves emerge. Male and female flowers are on separate plants (dioecious), similar, ¾ to 1¼ inches across with 4 or 5 broad, rounded white petals. Male flowers have a cluster of numerous yellow-tipped stamens in the center. Female flowers have a cluster of green to yellowish styles surrounded by numerous short, sterile, white-tipped stamens.
The 5 to 8 sepals are egg shaped, often with a short, abruptly pointed tip (mucronate), half as long as the petals or less, often reddish, the outer surfaces and the stalk variably covered in a mix of short, soft glandular and non-glandular hairs. Stalks are ¾ to 2 inches long.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are simple and alternate, the blades leathery, roughly round or kidney shaped in outline, 1½ to 4¼ inches long, 2 to 4½ inches wide with 3 to 7 (mostly 5) rounded lobes and palmate veins, the base heart-shaped, edges finely toothed, upper surface dark green and mostly hairless, lower surface pale grayish green with hairs along the veins. Mature leaves are long-stalked.
Near the base of the stem and at the base of leaf stalks are pairs of appendages (stipules) that are broadly egg-shaped and up to ¼ inch long. Stems, stalks and stipules are typically reddish and variably covered in a mix of short, fine glandular and non-glandular hairs but no bristles or prickles. Stems are unbranched, arise from a woody base, mostly erect, and die back to the woody base each year. Plants form clonal colonies from creeping rhizomes.
Cloudberry is a circumpolar species whose southern range in the US barely dips into extreme northeast Minnesota and into Maine. It is very rare in Minnesota and, according to the DNR, wasn't even discovered here until 1954. Its habitat here is sparsely forested black spruce/sphagnum bogs, but is known from fewer than 12 locations and in 1984 it was listed as a state Threatened species. Its primary means of reproduction is vegetative rhizomes that can form large clonal colonies. It rarely sets fruit in Minnesota, perhaps in part due to isolated, small colonies being either all male or all female, and also studies have shown that the male flowers often open too early to provide pollen for the later flowering females. In Scandinavia however, it fruits well enough to provide for a commercially harvestable crop, though being all hand picked from the wild - it makes for expensive jam. Cloudberry leaves may resemble those of some gooseberries (Ribes species), which have woody stems, lack the stipules, and some of which have prickles. Also of note is that some references state Cloudberry stems are not glandular hairy except perhaps on the upper stem, but our images show stems clearly glandular to the base, at least on the population we photographed. It's a variable trait.
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- Cloudberry plant
- Cloudberry plant
- Cloudberry plants
- Cloudberry habitat
- a colony of Cloudberry leaves, late season
- a 4-petaled flower
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken near Grand Portage in Cook county, MN. Fruit photo courtesy Andy Fyon, OntarioWildflower, taken in Ontario, Canada.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?