Missouri Dewberry Project

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2024: $5,273.00
Projected End Date: 02/15/2026
Grant Recipient: Ozark Heritage Botanicals
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Jeffery Goss, Jr
Ozark Heritage Botanicals


  • Fruits: berries (brambles)


  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection

    Proposal summary:

    The Missouri Ozarks has suffered environmental and economic
    depletion due to overreliance on cattle and beef production.
    There is a small fruit crop which though native to Missouri and
    having a long history of small-scale cultivation, is seldom grown
    commercially today. Dewberries have likely been overlooked
    commercially due to the higher yield potential of upright
    blackberries and raspberries in fertile, level ground. The
    dewberry, closely related to raspberries and blackberries, is a
    distinct type of fruiting bramble which is suited to many
    environments other than the "ideal" blackberry or raspberry
    habitats, and are especially valuable in hilly regions.
    Dewberries can be grown in upland and lowland soils requiring no
    expensive machinery to cultivate and harvest and add diversity to
    the landscape and are interworkable with beekeeping,
    agroforestry, permaculture, vegetable and livestock

    Dewberries, in the context of this project refers primarily to
    the species historically known as Rubus villosus,
    which is now commonly divided into the three species R.
    R. invisus and R.
     (syn. enslenii); this group
    also comprises the subspecies roribaccus (e.g.
    'Lucretia'), geophilus (e.g. 'Austin'), and
    almus (e.g. 'Foster Thornless'), whose attachments to
    the various newly divided species are still a matter of



    Project objectives from proposal:

    Research on existing cultivars as well as selecting new ones is
    likely to make dewberry cultivation a recognized and practical
    specialty crop option for southern and central Missouri, and
    perhaps even to become a signature product of the region. In
    addition to the fresh-marketed and preserved fruit, the dewberry
    has also been used as a source of tea (leaves), wine, and
    vinegar. They are potentially the basis of a wide variety of
    value-added products.

    Dewberries benefit pollinators including honeybees and wildlife
    including turtles and gamebirds, especially Bob White Quail.
    Flowers have a lot of nectar and the fruit and shoot tips are
    eaten by a lot of wildlife. It is easy to exclude wildlife with
    trellising if growing for fruit, but another market can be
    growing dewberries for wildlife. Root systems are extensive and
    help stabilize the soil. Requires very little equipment or
    physical stamina to cultivate. Can be produced on marginal areas
    of the farm and in economically depressed portions of the

    In hilly and "marginal" locations, dewberries may thrive and
    outperform blackberries. Furthermore, the vine's low and rambling
    habit may actually be an asset to small and diversified
    operations where it can be trained upon fences, rock walls, and
    other existing infrastructural sites rather than requiring
    dedicated open acreage which could be utilized in other ways.
    Dewberries can be pollinated by a variety of native pollinators
    as well as by honeybees, and are an excellent crop to integrate
    with a beekeeping venture on the farm.

    Four cultivar trials will be conducted for plot replication.
    There will be 4 plots and 100 plants. Initial size of each plot
    will be about 1/8th acre, describing ridge top, plain, and
    bottomland habitats. Initially 25 plants each at 5x5 foot
    spacings. In addition to comparative trials of the ones commonly
    available, samples will be sought from superior wild germplasm
    and from as many heritage dewberry cultivars as possible.

    Dewberries are especially well suited to the Ozarks, both
    agronomically and economically. The cultivar 'Lucretia', often
    said to orginate in North Carolina, was actually (as per some
    sources) selected from West Virginia during the Civil War era,
    but in any case it has been grown successfully in sourthern
    Appalachia for over a century, in climates and soils that closely
    mirror those of southern Missouri. The Arkansas Ozarks also
    historically produced dewberries in the early 20th century and
    are still often found in old home gardens there. Moreover, the
    wild subspecies or species known as upland dewberry is native to
    the Ozark uplift, and although it is not noted for high
    productivity, its tolerance to shade and rocky soils make it a
    desirable parent stock for any new dewberry crosses, as well as a
    population from which potentially to select natural cultivars
    (so-called "nativars") for outstanding traits such as
    thornlessness or early bearing.


    1. To evaluate the productivity and winter hardiness of the 3
      most widely available dewberries.
    2. To select the most promising native genotypes to introduce
      new varieties
    3. Share findings through a field day, publication of a
      bulletin, and articles in agricultural publications.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.