Northern Dewberries (Rubus flagellaris) are a tasty wild edible found throughout Central and Eastern North America from Texas through Eastern Canada. Other species of closely related Dewberry are found throughout the northern hemisphere.
They’re closely related to blackberries, but have a low trailing growth habit rather than upright canes. They spread through seeds, and by putting down new roots as they trail across the forest floor, along the sides of paths, roadsides and in clearings.
Dewberries have alternate compound leaves, usually grouped in threes, but sometimes in fives just to confuse you. Leaves are roughly 3 inches long by 1 inch wide and have toothed edges. They’re highly adaptable, and can be found in a variety of soils and light conditions from dry sandy path edges to boggy wooded areas to meadows, lawns and roadsides.
As to fruit shape, they lack the hollow center of raspberries, or the long cone-shaped fruit of blackberries, and instead form a compact round fruit mass. To me, the small hard unripe green berries near the ground on trailing runners are un-mistakable.
While in the woods you’ll often mistake them for blackberries, but they have a tendency to pop up in the middle of lawns and can fruit below the mow line. Blackberries only produce at the end of their canes, so finding blackberry-like fruit in your lawn will likely be confusing. Early in the season their low growing white flowers may also be confused for wild strawberries until the distinctive fruit begin to form.
Their taste is more like a raspberry than a blackberry, but they’re darkly colored like blackberries. Some find their taste to be far superior to both blackberries and raspberries, and describe a unique smokiness. While I do think they have their own taste, I enjoy all three Rubus species equally.
Dewberries can be eaten fresh or prepared similar to other Rubus species in pies or jams. They tend to fruit less densely than wild blackberries, so it may take you an hour or more in even a dense patch to fine enough ripe fruit for a pie.
Happy foraging, and enjoy!