If you want a splash of color with a haunting rose aroma in the late summer, a Purple Flowering Thimbleberry is a great selection as it puts on a stellar display of blooms that yield to brilliant red berries the size of a thimble.
The Purple Flowering Thimbleberry is a native and thorn-less plant that is closely related to the raspberry. The stems are stiff and covered in fine hairs that support large 5-lobed maple-like leaves that are a rich green and are 4-10 inches wide. The landscape value of the plant could be limited to the amazing color and texture of the leaves, but the flowers are the true draw. The 2-inch diameter flowers are a rich rose-purple color that appear over a long bloom period of two months and completely drape the plant in color. The flowers are very aromatic and have a rose like scent to them. The common name Purple Flowering Thimbleberry comes from the ¾ inch diameter fruit that the flowers transform into at the end of their bloom period. The cup-shaped red fruit looks like oversized raspberries. Although edible the fruit is a dry and rather fuzzy; overall it is unappetizing and best left to the wildlife who crave them.
The Purple Flowered Thimbleberry is a sought after fruit for many song birds, mammals, and the Eastern Box Turtle. The plant is a host species to 146 different species of butterflies and moths. Hummingbirds are seen around the flowers, but native bees and honey bees love the pollen rich flowers and the plant often hums with activity.
The Purple Flowering Thimbleberry is found in abundance along the rocky banks of Cross Creek in Jefferson County. William Bartram sold the plant in his 1792 catalog carrying the description “foliage beautiful; flowers of the figure, colour & fragrance of the rose.” The Purple Flower Thimbleberry was a favorite in landscape species in early America and prized for its bloom and aroma.■