Rubus parviflorus, thimbleberry or redcaps refers to a species of Rubus native to the northern regions of Northern America. It bears a red edible fruit that resembles a raspberry but is almost hemispherical and shorter. The fruit can not hold well together; it has not been developed commercially for the retail berry market but for landscapes.
These berries are an excellent source of vitamins that helps in serving 15 percent of the vitamin content the human body needs. Besides that, these are reserves of minerals, calories and macronutrients like proteins and carbohydrates. The berries contain potassium, calcium and iron. However, eating thimbleberries alone will not do the job alone. The thimbleberry fruit can be eaten raw and made into jams or other recipes. The berries were also earlier used to lessen nausea and unsettled stomach problems. However, it is preferred to always consult the physician before using a thimbleberry to serve medicinal purposes.
Rubus parviflorus or thimbleberry plant is native to regions of western North America from the south of Alaska and in New Mexico, California, San Luis Potosi, and Chihuahua. The blooming duration of this berry is May, June, July and August. The range of a thimbleberry extends to the Rocky Mountains and in a discontinuous pattern to the Great Lakes Region. The shrub can grow above the sea level in the north up to approximately 10,000 ft (3,000 m) in the south. The habitat of the Rubus parviflorus includes railroad tracks, roadsides, and forest clearings. The thimbleberry commonly appears as an early part of the ecological succession in the forest fire areas. This plant is found; in the forest, understories accompanied by typical flora that associates with the coastal woodfern, that is, Dryopteris arguta, Smilacina racemosa and Trillium ovatum. The fruit is usually consumed by bears and birds, while the black-tailed deer browse stems and young leaves.
Thimbleberry grows in the majority of British Columbia except for the far north. The territories involve open sites, sometimes at the roadsides, shorelines and edge of woods. The thimbleberry is present in both dry and moist sites. It occurs across a wide range of heights from sea level to the high subalpine zone. Rubus parviflorus is notably one of the species that colonize early after disturbance, especially along highways.
These berries are considered excellent subjects to naturalize in corners of suburban lots. In some places, these delicious berries grow or develop on their own, inoculating from the birds’ dropping. The optimum growing conditions required for the thimbleberry plant growth are partial to the full sunshade. The thimbleberry shrub can quickly form thickets that may stabilize the soil. Birds enjoy the fruit and butterflies love flowers.
Thimbleberry is up to 2.5 meters wide or 8.5 ft tall having canes less than 1.5 cm in diameter. It does not have prickles like other members of this genus. The leaves are palmate and have five lobes that are fuzzy and soft.
The thimbleberry flowers consist of five beautiful white petals 2 to 6 centimeters and pale yellow stamens. The flower of Rubus parviflorus is among the largest of any Rubus species known.
This plant produces edible fruit around 1 cm or 0.4 inches in diameter. The fruit ripens to give a bright red color during mid to late summer. It is not a true berry like a raspberry but an aggregate fruit is present around a central core with numerous drupelets. When these drupelets are picked, they leave behind a hollow fruit showing a close resemblance to a thimble, giving this plant a similar name.
Thimbleberry comprises velvety thimbles that are dry but exhibit a sweet taste. For this reason, these berries serve as a substitute for various dessert dishes. These can be sprinkled on vanilla ice cream or added to bread, muffins, pies, cakes, wines, salads, jams, dressings etc.
Besides that, the roots, leaves and young shoots treat various ailments. A tea using the leaves or roots of these berries serves as a blood tonic to treat nausea, vomiting, dysentery, and diarrhea. The effects of a thimbleberry are effective in strengthening the stomach by increasing appetite. The fruit is rich in Vitamin C and helps in boosting up the human immune system, and was earlier used to treat scurvy. An application of its powdered leaves in dry form treats burns and wounds. The fresh leaves of a thimbleberry plant can also be crushed and applied to treat acne-related complications.