Berry fruits are a popular crop for the home garden. They are a tasty and healthy snack, eaten out of hand or served on ice cream or cereal. Gardeners may dry them, freeze them or make them into jams. This versatile fruit grows easily, provided gardeners choose a type suited to their climate and soil. Bramble fruits and strawberries both belong to the rose family, and are among the most commonly grown berries.
Gardeners should consider the leaf shape and texture first when identifying berry shrubs. The leaves of blueberry, elderberry, raspberry and blackberry shrubs are elongated ovals. Gooseberries and currants have many deeply cut leaves that resemble maple or grape leaves. Blueberry leaves are glossy and smooth-edged, while raspberry and blackberry leaves are crinkled and have toothed edges. Gooseberry and current leaves are smooth, but not glossy.
Most berry shrubs have leaves that are similar in color, with slight variations. Blueberry leaves are deep green, with slightly blue edges. They resemble azalea and rhododendron leaves because blueberries belong to the same family, according to "Organic Gardening." They turn bright red in the fall. The leaves of blackberries and raspberries are a light green to bright green, depending on the age of the leaf. Young leaves are lighter and darken as they mature. Gooseberries, currants and elderberries are green, but may turn red or yellow in the fall.
Gardeners should also consider how the plant produces fruits and leaves. Raspberry bushes produce long canes and suckers that spread each year. Blackberry and purple and black raspberry bushes also produce leaves on canes, but they don't spread. Instead the plant produces new canes at the base of the crown. Blueberries form a dense hedge with growth similar to rhododendrons. Elderberries, gooseberries and currants grow on canes, similar to raspberries. Raspberry, blackberry and gooseberry bushes generally have thorns and spines, depending on the variety. Blueberries, currants and elderberries are thornless.
Berries grow wild in many parts of the country. Pay attention to what grows natively in your region when identifying a berry shrub. For example, blueberries require a pH level around 4.5, making them difficult to grow in the alkaline soils of the Western and Midwestern United States. Gardeners may find blueberries along the coastal areas of the Eastern United States and in some parts of the South. Blueberries grow well in coastal Oregon and Washington, as well. Red raspberries, elderberries, gooseberries and currants thrive in moist, cool climates with cold winters. Blackberries and purple or black raspberries are less cold hardy and better suited to areas with mild winters.
Diseases affecting the bush's leaves also help identify the plant, as diseases and symptoms vary. Gooseberry, currants and elderberries are vulnerable to fungi that cause leaf spots and stem cankers. They also succumb to viruses that cause yellow to green mosaic patterns on the leaves. Verticillium wilt is a serious disease for raspberry and blackberry bushes and cause lower leaves to turn a dull green. Later, upper leaves turn yellow and drop. Powdery mildew forms a white or gray crust on leaves. Blueberry mosaic causes light yellow, green, peach or pink mottled mosaics on leaves, while blueberry red ringspot causes small reddish rings on the leaves and canes.