05 Jan 2022

Boysenberry, origin and charateristics of the king of berry hybrids




Boysenberry is a hybrid obtained by crossing Austin Mayes (Rubus baileyanus) with Loganberry. This is attested in an article by Nahla Bassil "The importance of Being 'Boysen' : Examining Genotypic Variation with SSR markers" and the information is corroborated by DNA evidence (source: Harvey K Hall).

According to other sources it is a more complex cross obtained from raspberry(Rubus idaeus), European blackberry(Rubus fruticosus), American blackberry(Rubus aboriginum), and loganberry(Rubus × loganobaccus). It is not covered by a patent.


In the late 1920s, George Darrow of the USDA and Walter Knott, a California berry grower, tracked down some plants from the failed farm of Rudolph Boysen, a Swedish-born agronomist living in California's Napa Valley. Finding some plants fragile, they nursed them back to health. This was the beginning of the popular Boysenberries which were initially sold to Knott's Berry Farm in California.

Knott's Berry Farm as it was 100 years ago; now it is a popular family theme park with 60 attractions and a large hotel.


In the second half of the 1930s, after realising its potential, Walter Knott established its name in agreement with the US authorities and began large-scale production and marketing. By 1954, almost 1000 hectares were being cultivated in California. Now production is largely confined to the northernmost areas of the west coast of the United States: around 250 hectares are currently grown in the United States, mainly in Oregon.


As early as the second half of the 1930s, boysenberry was introduced to New Zealand, which is still among the world's largest producers. More than 600 hectares were planted in the 1980s, but by 2002 the area had dropped to about 240 hectares. During the 1980s and 1990s much of the crop was infected with a disease called Rosette (Cercosporella rubi, a fungal disease that attacks blackberries and the like). New Zealand's frozen boysenberry trade was valued at NZ$4.8 million in 2006.

According to the New Zealand Horticulture Export Authority, the 19 commercial boysenberry growers in New Zealand produce about 2,700 tonnes of boysenberries annually from an area of 206 hectares. About 1,500 tonnes of frozen boysenberries are exported, of which about 480 tonnes is processed concentrate.

For frozen concentrate, New Zealand exports increased by $1 million (74%) between 2018 and 2020. The EU overtook Kuwait as the top market destination, taking 42% and 30% of export volume respectively. New Zealand's exports of boysenberries IQF are worth nearly $1 million in 2020, up 59% from 2018. Australia remains a key market for IQF boysenberries. New Zealand's non-IQF frozen boysenberry exports have fluctuated between $1.4 and $2.5 million since 2016 and increased to $2.9 million (108%) in 2020.

In 1992 the New Zealand Boysenberry Council was founded, whose majority shareholder (60%) is Boysenberries New Zealand Limited (the largest boysenberry producer in the world), a co-operative of 12 producers founded in 1989 and which produces two thirds of the New Zealand crop of this hybrid. The remaining shares are divided equally between the national producers' association Horticulture New Zealand (HortNZ) and the exporters' association The Horticultural Exports Council.


Other producers are Australia (where berries hybrids account for only 1% of total production of berries, i.e. less than 100 tonnes) and Chile (which exports USD 7 million worth).

Current global Boysenberry production is estimated at around 1,600 tonnes per year, with no more than 700 hectares in production.


Boysenberry is perhaps the largest berry fruit ever obtained. Researcher Harvey K. Hall told Italian Berry: "I have occasionally seen a 28 g fruit, but more often it is much smaller. Other blackberries from the blackberries selection project in Arkansas are considerably larger in size, although they are not yet commercially available."

Both the plant and the fruit size turn out to be similar to that of a larger, more vigorous blackberry, the fruits have an elongated shape more like a raspberry but dark in color to resemble a blackberry.

Boysenberries (photo: Boysenberries New Zealand Ltd)

The fruit is large (3 cm long and 8 g in average weight) and slightly elongated, it is soft and fragrant; good taste, very aromatic, almost vinous. The berry is almost seedless.

A ripe boysenberry is full, firm and a uniform reddish purple colour. Not surprisingly, boysenberry tastes very similar to a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry. It has the juicy intensity of a blackberry, the sweet, floral character of a raspberry and a little more flavour than either of its parents.

As well as being eaten fresh, Boysenberries are also used in jams, preserves and syrups. Their low resistance to handling has limited their popularity for fresh consumption.

Chefs find that the exotic reddish purple colour offers many creative possibilities to excite the palate and stimulate the eye. Producers use the intense flavour of boysenberries in high-quality jams, preserves and marmalades, in dairy desserts, ice cream and yoghurt, as fruit fillings for baked goods and of course in delicious drinks. Boysenberries are also sensational on their own, and mix exceptionally well with other fruits making them 'great mixers' in juice, fruit or puree form.

The future of 'Boysenberry' seems secure as a processed niche product, and new cultivars with better fruit quality may lead to expansion into the fresh market.


The plant looks like an elongated bush consisting of numerous semi-woody branches that can grow up to about 2 m long. The young seedlings should be planted at a minimum distance of 2.5 metres, with stakes or poles to which the long shoots can be attached. It has no thorns and can withstand low temperatures (up to -10). It is preferable not to grow the plant above 1000 m above sea level, while in areas with a very hot and dry climate it is advisable to plant the plant in a semi-sunny position. It has hermaphrodite flowers, so even a single plant can bear fruit.

Matures from July to September and the fruit turns dark when ripe. The plant has vigorous, slightly spiny shoots. Prefers medium-textured, fairly fertile, fresh, moist but well-drained soil. Does not tolerate calcareous soil. Requires a position in sun or partial shade and has no particular exposure requirements.

Three years after planting, the Boysenberry plant can be considered an adult and the average production per plant is 1,5-2 kg. The plants are long-lived and have an economically attractive yield for a period of at least 30 years.

In professional plants, machine harvesting is widespread. Modern harvesters have the technology to select only the ripe fruits to be picked at each pass. Most growers go through their fields of boysenberries 7 to 9 times per harvest season.

Research conducted in 2002 by the University of California analysed the production costs of boysenberry.

"Thornless' is the most commonly sold boysenberry variety in the USA. "Brulee' is a thornless type developed abroad. "Mapua' and 'Tasman' are two thornless New Zealand types.

Researcher Harvey K Hall told Italian Berry that "Brûlée is actually a name invented by a New Zealand nurseryman, Andrew Boylen, who renamed Mapua's semi-thornless clone as "Brûlée." A New Zealand reselection of Boysenberry, "Riwaka Choice," has the outstanding color and flavor of the original variety. Purple Star Boysenberry is a variety also renamed by Andrew Boylen as "Starlight."

Wiki-how presents a visual guide with tips and recommendations to start producing boyseberry successfully:

Choose a sunny location
Check that the soil is well drained
Till the soil well
Build the backrests
Fits backrests
Transplanting plants in spring
Digging holes
Add manure
Put plants
Distancing plants
Irrigate every week
Fixing plants
Wait a year for the fruits
Harvest in the morning
Prune at the end of the season and
Watch out for birds
Do not water the plants
Remove diseased plants
Use fungicides if necessary

Boysenberry plants can be purchased from leading Italian nurseries specialising in berries:


Eating boysenberries, fresh or frozen, all year round means that you not only get vitamins and minerals, but several extremely important phytochemicals (naturally occurring compounds) that can protect against diseases such as cancer and heart disease, boost immunity and prolong life. These phytochemicals include:

  • Anthocyanins: Boysenberries contain high levels of anthocyanins and current research has linked anthocyanins to improved eyesight, reduced inflammation, protection against cardiovascular disease and the effects of ageing.
  • Ellagic acid: boysenberries contain high concentrations of bioavailable ellagic acid, which has been shown to have potential anti-carcinogenic properties.
  • Dietary fibre: a carbohydrate-like substance found only in plants. Its benefits include maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal tract, helping to reduce blood cholesterol levels and lowering the risk of heart disease.
  • Folic acid: boysenberries also have high antioxidant activity, which can help prevent and/or delay major degenerative diseases. It is believed that the combination of phytochemicals such as vitamins, anthocyanins and ellagic acid working together makes them so effective.Bosyenberry on social media



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