The tenth letter of the Gaelic tree alphabet is M. This one’s controversial – often taken as vine, but it’s not native, so we say it’s bramble. Bramble in old Gaelic is muin (vine), in modern Gaelic dreas or dris (entangler, prickle). In latin it’s Rubus fruticosus.
roots say shut up and hide
leaves say disobey
flowers say sweet day
stem says scramble
fruits say ramble food
pips say spit us out
barbs say give us blood
and I say bramble!
Snippets of lore
Regional names for bramble: blackberry, skaldberry, blackbutters, blackbides, bumblekites, gatterberry, lady’s garters.
Other Gaelic names for bramble: dris-muine (prickly thorn), grian-mhine (sun thorn), smeur-an-dubha (black stain)
The best bramble berries are the first to ripen at the end of the spears.
Brambles are apomictic – they can produce seeds without being fertilised.
Bees love bramble flowers.
240 species of insects feed on bramble, 32 of them exclusively on bramble.
Song thrushes and wrens like to nest in bramble thickets.
Bramble is good in hedges.
In some parts of Scotland there are taboos about picking wild hedgerow brambles.
Michaelmas day is the traditional end of the bramble harvest.
In Drumfries, after Rood Fair (last Wednesday in September) the evil one puts his clubfoot on the brambles, rendering them useless for eating.
That was a bramble riddle from Glencairn.
Brambles make excellent puddings and jellies, wine and beer, often cooked with apples.
Bramble dyes a lovely purple, but fades to puce.
Bramble roots were used against bronchitis and asthma.
A wreath of bramble protects against evil (but isn’t very comfortable…)
Bramble berry syrup relieves sore throats and bronchial catarrh.
Bramble leaves soothe burns and swellings.
Bramble is a symbol for learning from others.
A traditional tobacco pipe was carved from bramble wood.
At the spring festival, a corn dolly representing Brigid carries a bramble wand.
Bramble stems are used for binding straw and rush baskets and skeps, especially where trees are rare (e.g. Shetland).
Jesus used a bramble switch riding his donkey into Jerusalem and driving the money lenders out of the temple.