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Global Ideas

Berlin environment blog: beloved brambles

Berlin has a reputation as a green capital. In this blog, we see if that's true and go in search of the good, the bad and the ugly of the city's environment. So... blackberries? Good, bad or ugly? Depends who you ask.

Cycling to work this morning, I saw the familiar form of a blackberry bush straggling up one side of a railside wall and drooping down the other, waiting it seemed for warmer weather to coax it out of the slumber that is the Berlin winter. In my mind's eye, that coaxing had already happened. In full force. And the bush was replete with dark green leaves and drupelets swollen with deep purple juice and a woodland flavor.

Though that delight may be months away, there is another more immediate one in the sheer magical fact that right here in the heart of Berlin, so universally famed for its nightlife and history, wildlife is quiety going about its own business. Growing at its own steady pace. Often so invisible to the human population among which it mingles.

A bramble branch with thorns and a couple of leaves

The slow return from the depth of winter

Maybe I noticed the bushes today - as opposed to all the other mornings I pass them - because of a recent conversation with a friend who was trying hard to convince me that blackberries are considered a pest in Western Australia. Having myself, grown up brambling along country lanes in rural England, the notion that the object of such an innocent, romantic pastime, could be deemed a scourge, seemed almost profane.

Needless to say, I resisted all his arguments, until Google came to his rescue, setting me straight with an announcement posted by the Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food. It read, "Blackberry: declared pest."

Turns out, the plant I have always regarded as a humble giver of crumble, actually shares that declared plague status in many other parts of Australia, where it was introduced by my ancestors and has long, we're talking 1880s long, been recognized as a "noxious weed" on the grounds that it grows into dense thickets that exclude native species.

I hear you Australia. But I'm still not listening. Maybe you have to experience the other side of brambles to believe they're really that bad. For me, here in the heart of the German capital, their greatest crime is to nip at the skin when harvesting their bounty. And I can live with that. In fact, I look forward to it.