black berry bush

Purple canes often indicate black raspberry bushes across the High Country.

Dear Naturalist,

I keep seeing these purple-stemmed brambles. They’re mixed in with brown brambles. What are they?

— KE, Crossnore


It must be that time of year again: when we become so desperate for any color other than dull green and gray that we relish in the electric red of the cardinal feather and in the memories of the yellow glow of a firefly. I would do just about anything for a glimpse at a trillium’s pink petals. I would do anything for a forest filled with them.

For now, though, we’ll have to be happy with the muted hue of the black raspberry plant.

The raspberry’s second year stems, or “canes,” are maroon. I see from your picture that the cane is also covered in a white wax, which is produced by the plant to prevent dehydration. The combination of cane and wax produces a glowing purple-blue that is certainly noticeable during the winter months.

These purple canes will produce branches that will be covered with blossoms and berries in the summer. The brown canes that you have noticed are parts of the raspberry plant that are past their prime.

If you have a question concerning flora and fauna, please email All of your questions will be answered. One or two will be featured next week. See you on the trails!

Amy Renfranz is a Certified Naturalist through the Yellowstone Association Institute and a Certified Environmental Educator in the state of North Carolina.

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