Skip to Content

6 Different Types of Boysenberries

Boysenberry fruit is extremely delicate and perishable. There are several varieties of boysenberry that we will discuss in this article and their brief history.

Boysen berry in a aluminum bowl.

Boysenberry, to me, was always the one flavor of fruit on the bottom yogurt that I genuinely liked.  I would buy yogurt with intense feelings of virtue, but knowing in my heart, the only ones I’d eat were the boysenberries.  Alas, it’s been years since I’ve been able to find them.  Maybe I’ll grow boysenberries along with my other fruits here on the little farm in the woods and then learn to make yogurt.  

What Are Boysenberries?

Black and red boysenberry fruit.

Most people think boysenberries are descended from a cross between the loganberry (Rubus x loganobaccus) and the dewberry (Rubus ursinus). The hybrid is often credited to Rudolph Boysen, but the first commercial grower was Walter Knott. 

The boysenberry fruit is extremely delicate and perishable. All types of boysenberries are rated as hardy and ranked for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 or 6 through 9.  (Since I’m a 5a, I should be able to grow these with my cherries, raspberries, gooseberries, and blackberries.)  

Most boysenberries have thorny canes or branches.  Some believe that the thorny varieties are more cold-tolerant, but they all have the same USDA hardiness ratings.  Boysenberries have a complex hybridization record which leads to them being called nectarberries, youngberries, and hybridberries.  All of these can be thorny or thornless.  

Thornless, Sort Of

The thornless varieties actually do have thorns, just fewer and smaller than in the so-called thorny types.  

Cultivation

Wild boysenberry bushes.

Boysenberries grow best in moist soil heavy with decomposed organic matter.  They prefer a long, temperate growing season.  Unlike gooseberries and raspberries, boysenberries have runners that have to be trained to upright supports, or they will simply creep along the ground. 

See also  13 Different Types of Pepperoni

After the season, the plants should be pruned with eight to 12 newly sprouted branches, each cut back to about six to eight feet, left to mature for the following year’s growth. Boysenberries produce fruit at two years old.  

History of the Boysenberry

A lady picking up some boysenberry.

The boysenberry – a hybrid of the dewberry and the loganberry – is generally traced back to Rudolph Boysen, who obtained the parent from John Lubben’s farm.  In the late 1920s, the USDA began to track down reports of a large, reddish-purple berry growing on Boysen’s farm in Anaheim, California. 

Working with Walter Knott, another berry expert, Darrow determined to find the berry.  Eventually, they tracked down Boysen’s old farm and were able to rescue some of the surviving boysenberry vines.  Knott took the survivors to his farm in Buena Park, California, where he was able to get them to bear fruit.  Knoff of Knott’s Berry Farm became the first to cultivate the boysenberry commercially in southern California.  

Knott began to sell the berries at his farmstand in 1932 and noticed that they sold exceptionally well.  Knott always told those who asked that the delicious sweet berries were called Boysenberries.  Knott’s family restaurant and pie business eventually became Knott’s Berry Farm. Knott's berry farm entrance signage.

As the boysenberries continued to grow in popularity, Mrs. Knott started making preserves from the berries, which eventually made Knott’s Berry Farm famous throughout the country.  The berry’s popularity grew until, by the 1950s, Knott had 2,400 acres under cultivation, and overall, boysenberry crops exceeded those of the raspberry and blackberry..  However, by the 1960s, the difficulty in cultivating the boysenberry combined with its susceptibility to fungal diseases and its fragility, the boysenberry began to lose its popularity.  

See also  21 Different Types of Salami

In the 1980s, breeding efforts in New Zealand created five new thornless varieties working with the California berry and others from Scotland.  By the early 2000s, fresh boysenberries were only grown and sold locally by small farmers.  Commercially grown berries, mostly from Oregon, become jam, pie, juice, syrup, and ice cream. (Note, sigh, that my yogurt is not listed.)  As of 2021, New Zealand was the world’s largest producer of boysenberries.  

Like many the dark red and purple berries, the boysenberry is known as a superfood, high in Vitamin C and antioxidants.  Many consider the boysenberry to be the super berry of these super foods.  It has strong anti-inflammatory properties, and high levels of polyphenols.  

Varieties of Boysenberry  

Red and black boysenberry fruit.

The division between varieties of boysenberries is thornless versus thorned.  The following will look at some of the varieties available within those classes.  Unlike many other berries such as gooseberries and black currants, which have dozens of varieties, Boysenberries do not have a large number of varieties.  

1. Brulee

A thornless type of boysenberry, Brulee

2. Mapua

A thornless New Zealand variety

3. Newberry (Ruby Boysen) 

Newberry, a variety of boysenberry.

First cultivated in 2007, the Newberry was developed to overcome some of the cultivation issues that brought about the decline in the popularity of boysenberries.  It is a hybrid of marionberry, loganberry, and boysenberries. Newberries are larger and sweeter than standard boysenberries. 

In addition, the fruit is somewhat less fragile in shipping.  The Newberry, as is hinted by its alternate name, is a gorgeous shade of red rather than the purple of the original boysenberry.  

See also  9 Sushi Rice Substitute Options

4. Silvanberry

Ripe Silvanberry in a branch.

An Australian hybrid with the marionberry, SIlvanberry is generally considered a blackberry rather than a boysenberry.  They are long-loved perennials and have many of the features of blackberries.  The resulting fruit is softer than a marionberry. 

It is also faster to sprout than most boysenberries, and slightly less flavorful and aromatic.  It is one of the top varieties of boysenberry grown in Oregon and is used mostly in jams, jellies, and pie fillings.  

5. Tasman

A thornless New Zealand variety

6. Thornless

Thornless boysenberry in a bush.

Most commonly sold boysenberry in the United States.  Thornless produces large, long fruits that ripen to a deep maroon color.  Juicy with a sweet-tart flavor and delightful arome. 

Great for freezing, canning, jams, jellies, and eating fresh.  Boysenberries are the fruit that made Knott’s Berry Farm famous.  Sometimes called Thornless Youngberry.  

Thornless Youngberry

A thornless hybrid that is also seedless.

FAQs

Q.    What berries were hybridized to create the boysenberry?

A.  The boysenberry, particularly in its most recent versions, has been bred from several different berries.  Rubus ursinus var loganobaccus cv Boysenberry is a hybrid of the loganberry, raspberry, and blackberry.  The loganberry is a hybrid of the American blackberry and the European raspberry.  Other sources believe it is a more complex cross obtained from raspberry(Rubus idaeus), European blackberry(Rubus fruticosus), American blackberry(Rubus aboriginum), and loganberry(Rubus × loganobaccus).

Q.    Where are most boysenberries grown?

A.    In the United States, most boysenberries are grown in Oregon and California.  They tend to be consumed locally or in cooked preparations.  The worldwide leader in boysenberry production is New Zealand.  Much of the New Zealand crop is exported as frozen berries.  The Oregon crops are generally used for jellies, jams, syrups, and pies.  Boysenberries are a fragile berry and do not ship well.  

See also  5 of the Most Popular Thanksgiving Pies

Q.    Who made the boysenberry famous?

A.    The boysenberry was developed in the 1930s in California by a farmer named Boysen.  Later, the USDA and a farmer named Knott developed the berry for commercial purposes.  Called the boysenberry after its development, the berry was the basis for the growth and popularity of Knott’s Berry Farm.  

Q.    What diseases and pests affect boysenberries?

A.    Boysenberries are subject to a variety of diseases and pests.  Among the more important ones are:

  • Cane and leaf rust. This fungus causes yellow blisters to develop on the leaves and canes of boysenberry plants. Over time, the canes and leaves will dry and crack. If you see the signs of cane and leaf rust, simply prune out the affected canes. Burn them to avoid spreading the infection. The infection probably will not greatly affect your harvest.
  • Anthracnose. Another fungal infection, anthracnose, first manifests as small, purple spots on the leaves and new shoots. On the branches, they will grow larger and turn gray. There may also be dieback of the overall plant. There is no good treatment for this condition but early treatment with fungicide can prevent it.  
  • Spur blight. The spur blight ungus develops as purple blotches on canes. New shoots and buds will die back.  With spur blight, you should remove and burn the affected branches. You may also want to consider using a copper fungicide in the bud stage to treat the infection.
  • Orange rust. Small, yellow spots on leaves are the first signs of the orange rust fungus. Eventually, they grow into blisters that produce orange spores.  Orange rust is a systemic infection. If allowed to spread, your plants will not produce any berries. Unfortunately, there is no fungicide that will treat orange rust, so you need to remove and destroy damaged plants, preferably before the pustules burst.
  • Fruit rot. This occurs when the ripening fruit rots on the canes. Overripe berries are most susceptible. With fruit rot, prevention is best, although fungicides can be used to save berries that are starting to rot. Prevention includes spacing and pruning plants to improve air circulation and harvesting berries before they over-ripen.
See also  44 Different Types of Carrots

Q.    Is boysenberry good for you?

A.    Many people consider the boysenberry a superfood with its high antioxidant content.  Boysenberries contain a good amount of dietary fiber, vitamins E and  K, foliate,  and a slew of minerals including manganese, iron, calcium and potassium.

Q.    Why is it hard to buy fresh boysenberries?  

A.    Boysenberries are more fragile than most other berries and do not travel well.  They are thus usually only found fresh in local farmer’s markets and are generally commercially available in frozen or canned forms.  

Q.    Does Knott’s still own the Knott’s Berry Farm food brand?

A.    No.  First purchased by ConAgra Foods, Inc., the brand was most recently sold to the J.M. Smucker Co.  The brand is still separately maintained by Smucker’s and produces and markets jams, jellies and preserves in the foodservice, retail and gift box channels with about $40 million in annual sales.