Ridding land of wild blackberry canes is one of the "thornier" problems homeowners face. But as you rip out those brambles--or prune your own cultivated blackberry plants--consider the many useful properties blackberry canes possess. While you may not be a farmer seeking an all-purpose "ruminant plant" for your goats and sheep, several intriguing recipes for blackberry canes exist.
While the blackberry bush's berries, leaves and roots contain more tannin than its branches, blackberry bark nonetheless possesses medicinal properties, especially for stomach upset. "A decotion [of blackberry plant] is a safe and effective astringent---a traditional home remedy for adult diarrhea," notes author Steve Brill in "Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants." While Brill advises that blackberry root is the most effective part of the plant for treating diarrhea, he does suggest bramble bark tea for mild stomach problems. Those with severe complaints should see a doctor.
Like paper birch and mulberry trees, blackberry bark possesses an inner bark, called bast, which lends itself to strong paper. According to "Papermaking with Garden Plants & Common Weeds," six feet of blackberry cane measuring between ½ and 1 inch in diameter will result in one pound of paper. After removing the bast from the rest of the blackberry cane, boil the chopped fiber with 6 oz. soda ash for approximately four hours. Let cool an additional four hours, and rinse the material at least twice. The processed canes need to be further broken down, usually through hand-beating with mallets, before you proceed with your favored papermaking technique.
A traditional dye material, blackberry cane results in a creamy light brown color for wool, silk, cotton or linen. When dying with plant materials, it's helpful to have two five-gallon pots, because both the fabric and the water bath dye must be prepared at the same time in order to put the fabric directly into the dye bath. To prepare fabric for dyeing, soak the material and a tablespoon of liquid detergent in hot water overnight (125 degrees for wool or 195 degrees for other materials). Rinse the fabric and refill the pot, this time adding 1 oz. aluminum potassium sulfate (also known as alum). Simmer for one hour. This procedure prepares the fabric for dying. To dye with blackberry canes, chop up enough brambles to loosely fill another five-gallon pot. Place the chopped canes in a muslin bag, fill the pot with water, and leave the mixture to soak overnight. The following day, simmer the dye material one to three hours and remove the cane-filled bag. Add the fabric you are dying, and simmer one hour. Rinse the fabric in first warm and then cold water, and hang to dry.