Boulder Raspberry (Oreobatus deliciosus)

Appearance
rubus-deliciosus-boulder-raspberry-emeraldvalley-2008jun23-lah-004r
With its ostentatious white flowers clamoring for your attention, Boulder Raspberry impresses like a hybridized cultivar, rather than a native shrub. Growing three to five feet tall and six feet wide, arching, sprawling stems carry bright green, lobed leaves that turn yellow in fall before dropping for the winter. Spring’s blooms develop into small reddish purple fruit resembling cultivated raspberries. While edible, the berries are generally considered unpalatable. However, they will attract birds and other wildlife to your garden. Unlike other raspberries, the stems are thornless.

rubus-deliciosus-boulder-raspberry-cc-2003jul06-lah-004Cultivation
Dry shade is enough to send most plants running, but Boulder Raspberry thrives there. For best results, situate plants in light to medium shade with gravelly or silty soil amended with compost. Water deeply but infrequently. Native to Rocky Mountain slopes and ravines between 4,500 and 9,000 feet, the shrub is long-lived and very hardy.

Landscape Use
A bit coarse for a formal garden, try combining Boulder Raspberry with other natives in a natural setting. It works best as an understory plant or in a northern exposure. Pink shrub roses (such as ‘Nearly Wild’) or purple-leafed ‘Diablo’ Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) would make outstanding companions.

13 thoughts on “Boulder Raspberry (Oreobatus deliciosus)”

  1. We have lived with this glorious bush for 28 years without knowing what it is. It is currently in full bloom & so beautiful. A plant loving neighbor stopped by to admire the blooms & put me on to it & to this site. This is on Sugarloaf, at 7400′, & I suspect it may be the only one around. It was well established when we moved in all those years ago & has been one of my most cherished plants. It never fails to impress. I have not seen another in the area. I am most happy to now know what it is. I have to say, I’ve never noticed the ‘raspberries’ that form, but this year I’ll keep my eyes pealed. This bush lives in full sun in the poor granite soil among a pile of rocks & it doesn’t get much water; but once in awhile we soak it well.
    Linda

  2. Thanks, Linda! What a rave review. I hope more people plant these… they’re one of my favorite Colorado plants. And I bet the birds (or other wildlife) are eating your berries, so you’ll have to watch carefully.

  3. Granddaughter Talia, my husband and I were on a hike up to Gem Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park and budding naturalist Talia wanted to know if one could eat the berries of this raspberry. So we tried it–and compared it with the fruit of the American raspberries nearby (I knew it was not poisonous). Our reaction–the juice is sweet but it has a bitter aftertaste–so suck the juice of the ripe berries but spit out the seeds. (So says an 8 yr old.)

  4. I tried a berry once and thought it was pretty awful. I’m impressed by your granddaughter’s willingness to sample it!

  5. I had a magnificent Boulder raspberry in my full-sun back yard in Northwest Denver for many years, and the new owners of the house still have it. It thrived on the same water the grass received, made a lovely graceful display all year ’round. I would prune out at least one third of the older branches every year, and every year we would have a massive display of wonderfully fragrant flowers that would last and last. In the wooded foothills, BR grows sturdily but irregularly among boulders (natch) and gravel, but downtown it magically becomes a society matron worthy of consorting with the best of everybody. Highly recommend!

    1. Wow, what a glowing endorsement for this wonderful plant! Thank you. It surely must have appreciated receiving so much water, rewarding you with all those flowers. It’s nice to know that not only do Boulder Raspberries survive drought, but they can also thrive under regular irrigation.

  6. I took about 100 flower photos around our summer cabin in Fulford Colorado (elevation 10,000 feet) July/August 2013 and posted on Facebook. Am trying to identify each and believe this one happens to be a Mountain Plover/Boulder Rasberry/Thimbleberry/Oreobatus deliciosus. Mom planted it from somewhere else but she remembers not where! What do you all think-have I named it correctly?! Sorry the photo is out of focus somewhat.

    1. Tod, I took a look at the photo you mention on your facebook page. I don’t think it’s Boulder Raspberry. The flowers are similar but the leaves are all wrong. I’m not an expert at native plants, but your photo might be a white version of Shrubby Cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticosa). Try looking that up and see if it looks right to you.

  7. I just learned about this species recently and took at trip to Fort Collins Nursery to find one and the one berry I tasted was amazing! Literally the best raspberry I’ve ever had in my life! I wonder if there are good tasting ones and bad tasting.

    But I thought I’d let you know that it is now called Rubus deliciosus.

    1. It seems that the botanists have been at it again. It was Rubus, then it seemed that they changed the genus to Oreobatus. And now it’s Rubus again, with Oreobatus as an “accepted synonym” (whatever that means). Thanks for pointing this out.
      My plants are currently full of unripe berries, but the robins are busy chowing down. I should try eating another one, as the one I tried was pretty awful, but I’m not sure there will be any left by the time they ripen. At least I’m enjoying the birds!

  8. I believe I have one of these Boulder Raspberry bushes. It has lived side by side with a choke cherry for several years. I live at 7200 foot altitude in Golden Gate Canyon. The flowers are lovely. This is the first year I have noticed berries but it doesn’t mean they haven’t been there before. Last week we braved tasting one or two and they were almost black in color and sweet. Maybe we caught it at just the right time. I should like to send a picture but am not very computer savvy. Elle

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