Michigan's forests, fields and swamplands play host to a number of wild berry species, including strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. Michigan wild berry plant identification requires a basic knowledge of each berry plant's characteristics.
Michigan's wild strawberries look similar to their garden counterparts, but produce smaller, sweeter fruit. Look for long-stemmed, three-leaved plants; the leaves will be rounded and oval in shape but have small teeth along their edges. The flowers are white, with five round petals. Wild strawberry plants are typically found in open fields, usually along the forest edge. They flower in May and typically produce fruit by June.
Although southern lower Michigan is famous for its blueberry farms, its wild blueberries rival domestic ones for taste. Wild blueberry bushes inhabit bogs and swampland, especially near the edge of a lake or stream. They range from 2 to 6 feet high and produce a forest of greenish or reddish “zig-zag” twigs. The leaves are oval-shaped on short stalks and have no teeth. The berries look like domestic blueberries, but are typically smaller and may be more spherical. Wild blueberry bushes flower in early June and produce fruit from July to September.
Raspberries grow both wild and domestic in Michigan, but the plants are the same: a rambling thicket of thorny shrubs, growing as high as 6 feet. Raspberries can be distinguished from blackberries and dewberries by their rounded, reddish or purplish white-powdered stems. They produce leaves 3 to 5 inches long, with three to seven leaflets on a stem. Each leaf has small teeth along its edge and is slightly fuzzy to the touch.
Raspberries may be either red or black; black raspberries are smaller than blackberries. Golden raspberries may be found on Michigan farms but are not typically seen in the wild. Raspberries produce white five-petaled flowers from late April until July and fruit from mid-June until September. Japanese beetles can often be found in abundance on raspberry leaves.
Blackberry bushes look remarkably similar to raspberries, especially in the winter. Blackberries produce tall, angular, arching branches. Their leaves are typically 3 to 7 inches long, growing in groups of three to seven leaflets. Blackberries are larger than black raspberries and contain larger seeds. Like raspberries, blackberries produce white flowers with five oval-shaped petals from late April until July, and produce fruit from mid-June until September or the first frost.
Dewberries are a wild relative of blackberries and raspberries, and are often one of the first plants to take over an abandoned field. Dewberries are recognizable by their low-growing, ground-clutching thorny branches that often create “tripwires” in long grass. Dewberry leaves look similar to strawberry leaves: they grow typically in bunches of three and are 5 to 7 inches long, oval and have fine “teeth” along the leaves' edges. Dewberry leaves are particularly striking in fall, when they turn a bright red.
When ripe, dewberries resemble blackberries in their color and shape, but are smaller than blackberries, averaging about a 1/2 inch in length, and often grow in clusters. Dewberries produce fruit from mid-July through the beginning of September, or the first frost.
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