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Summer Fruits

Manitoba's Summer Fruits

By Johnny Caryopsis  

There are more than 40 species of native Manitoba plants that produce edible fruits or berries. Most of these are obscure, uncommon or not commonly used by people. Modern people make regular use of only a handful of these species, though early aboriginal people likely made use of them all. Here's a list of most, if not all, of the fruit or berry bearing plants of Manitoba that are considered edible.

Manitoba Blackberries!

A new fruiting species for Manitoba? In 2014 specimens of a species of Blackberry were discovered in Whiteshell Provincial Park. This species was previously unrecorded in Manitoba. Two well-established patches were located, more than 10 km apart, well away from human habitation, on rocky outcrops. Both had born fruit this year.

2016 Update: This species of Blackberry has been tentatively identified as Smooth Blackberry (Rubus canadensis). Several more patches of this plant were located in Whiteshell Park in 2015. Here's some pictures: Click for some Blackberry images!


In the list, I've given the kind and size of fruit each plant has. Most of our "fruits and berries" fit into one of the three latter categories: berry, drupe or pome; but, of course, not all our fruits nest so nicely into one or another categories. Where necessary some additional definitions are included. Fruit sizes referred to below are the largest diameter of the individual fruit: Small = 5-7 mm, Medium = 10-20 mm, Large = 25-40 mm. The list is in taxonomic order; that is, the families of plants are listed in ascending order of evolutionary complexity. Within each family the species are arranged alphabetically, by scientific name.

Saxifrage Family (Saxifragaceae)

Wild Black Currant (Ribes americanum)
- small black berry

Skunkberry (Ribes glandulosum)
- small red berry

Northern Black Currant (Ribes hudsonianum)
- small black berry

Swamp Gooseberry (Ribes lacustre)
- small reddish-gold berry

Northern Gooseberry (Ribes oxyacanthoides)
- medium sized purple berry

Swamp Red Currant (Ribes rubrum)
- small red berry

Rose Family (Rosaceae)

Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia)
- small to medium, dark blue pome (See "Favourites")

Eastern Serviceberry (Amelanchier sanguinea)
- small to medium, dark blue pome

Round-Leaved Hawthorn (Crataegus rotundifolia)
- medium, red-skinned pome

Long-Spined Hawthorn (Crataegus succulenta)
- medium, red-skinned pome

American Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) (See "Favourites")
- small, fleshy receptacle (see below)

Smooth Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) (See "Favourites")
- small, fleshy receptacle (see below)

American Plum (Prunus americana)
- large drupe with reddish skin

Canada Plum (Prunus nigra)
- large drupe with reddish skin

Pin Cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) (See "Favourites")
- small, bright red drupe

Low Sand Cherry (Prunus pumila)
- medium, purplish drupe

Red-Fruited Choke Cherry (Prunus virginiana) (See "Favourites")
- small, red drupe

Black-Fruited Choke Cherry (Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa)
- small, black drupe (See "Favourites")

Prickly Rose (Rosa acicularis)
- medium orange-red "hip" (a berry-like enlarged calyx tube)

Low Prairie Rose (Rosa arkansana)
- medium orange-red "hip" (a berry-like enlarged calyx tube)

Smooth Rose (Rosa blanda)
- medium orange-red "hip" (a berry-like enlarged calyx tube)

Wood's Rose (Rosa woodsii)
- medium orange-red "hip" (a berry-like enlarged calyx tube)

Stemless Raspberry (Rubus acaulis)
- medium red berry formed from many fleshy drupelets

Smooth Blackberry (Rubus canadensis. - new species for MB!)
- medium black berry formed from many fleshy drupelets

Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
- medium orange berry formed from many fleshy drupelets

Wild Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) (See "Favourites")
- medium red berry formed from many fleshy drupelets

Dewberry (Rubus pubescens)
- medium red berry formed from many fleshy drupelets

Western Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana)
- small bright orange berry in tight bunches

Grape Family (Vitaceae)

Riverbank Grape (Vitis riparia)
- small dark blue to black berry in grape-like clusters

Cactus Family (Cactaceae)

Purple Cactus (Mamillaria vivipara)
- large fleshy green berry

Oleaster Family (Elaeagnaceae)

Buffaloberry (Sheperdia argentea)
- small red drupe-like fruit

Canada Buffaloberry (Sheperdia canadensis)
- small red drupe-like fruit

Ginseng Family (Araliaceae)

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)
- small black berry in spherical clusters
Bristly Sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida)
- small black berry in spherical clusters

Dogwood Family (Cornaceae)

Red-Osier Dogwood (Cornus alba)
- small white drupe in tight bunches

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
- small red drupe in tight bunches

Heath Family (Ericaceae)

Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
- small red berry

Huckleberry Family (Vacciniaceae)

Swamp Cranberry (Oxycoccus palustris)
- small dark red berry

Low Sweet Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) (See "Favourites")
- small dark blue berry

Dwarf Bilberry (Vaccinium caespitosum)
- small dark blue berry, in small clusters

Common Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides) (See "Favourites")
- small dark blue berry, in small clusters

Bog Whortleberry (Vaccinium scoparium)
- small red berry

Dry-Ground Cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)
- small dark red berry

Potato Family (Solanaceae)

Prairie Ground Cherry (Physalis virginiana)
- medium orange berry

Honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae)

Western Snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis)
- small white berry, in small clusters

Low-Bush Cranberry (Viburnum edule)
- small red drupe

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)
- small black drupe

High-Bush Cranberry (Viburnum opulus)
- small red drupe


Of the more than 40 fruiting plants listed above it's easy to single out a few that most of us recognize and that draw the most attention come pickin' season. While the king of the hill is undoubtedly the blueberry, most of us would also be familiar with raspberry, strawberry, saskatoon, pin cherry and choke cherry. But, how much do you really know about these berries and the plants that produce them? Well, hopefully, by the time you've finished this article, you'll know a bit more. While it's true that greater knowledge may not make the berries taste any better, it may help you to better appreciate the plants that make these summer treats for us.

The fruits detailed in the next pages are the most sought-after of our summer fruits. A tip to bear in mind when you're after any of these fruits is to stick to openings or the forest edge. Plants need energy, in the form of sunlight, to make lots of flowers, seeds and fruits. The shade of the forest canopy greatly reduces the productivity of all these plants. The forest edge, along trails, or wherever the plants have better access to sunlight will be the best place to hunt for fruits and berries. Large scale removal of the larger trees in a forest, by fire or logging can greatly improve the fortunes of berry pickers.

Carry on for Some Favourite Fruits!

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