Picking out shrubs and bushes for the backyard landscape is no easy matter, as there is a wide variety of choices to pick from. Selecting shrubs with berries and thorns can be an option for those who would like to attract wildlife, from rabbits and squirrels to birds, into the backyard. These bushes provide not only a food source for these animals, but protection from predators as well.
There are several different types of raspberry bushes: red, black and purple. Most of the naturally occurring varieties of these bushes have thorns, although some cultivars have been created to have fewer, smaller or no thorns.
Red raspberry bushes are, as a whole, the hardiest of the berry bushes and the best suited to areas with long winters and mild summers. The "Killarney" is very cold hardy and has many finely developed thorns. Other varieties, like the "Newburgh," have been developed to have few thorns to make picking the berry crop easier. Black and purple raspberries also bear thorns, while some varieties of ever-bearing raspberries have been cultivated to have fewer.
Blackberry bushes are similar to raspberry bushes when it comes to the soil quality and site requirements needed for a good harvest, but are generally less hardy and less cold tolerant than raspberries. Blackberries will generally not grow as fully outward as raspberries will, making it possible to plant them in a hill system without worrying about them growing together and making harvesting around thorns difficult. Two popular varieties, the "Darrow" and the "Illini," are highly desirable for the large fruit they bear. Both types also have large thorns to contend with, but this defence mechanism also helps protect the berries from hungry wildlife.
Gooseberries come in a number of varieties, with berries that can be green, white, red, pink or black. The berries of the American gooseberry are usually smaller than those borne by the European, and have a distinctive oval shape and colours that are made brighter on bushes grown in full, direct sunlight. The berries are versatile and well suited for making into jellies, jams or including in tarts and pies.
The thorns of the gooseberry bush can make harvesting the plant a challenge. The bush has a number of thin, woody stems, with each one of these branching off into smaller stems. These branches split off into other branches, with large thorns at the junction of each split, in addition to being along each branch. A single berry is on the end of the final branch, making harvesting a harrowing experience.
The prickly ash has two forms; it can be grown either as a small tree or as an ornamental shrub, depending on how it is pruned. When grown as a shrub, it will typically have numerous stems and reach mature heights of between 8 and 10 feet. The dark green leaves are covered with prickles, and the stems are coated in thorns, making its name one well earned. The berries of the bush are one of the reasons it is grown as an ornamental shrub. After the bush flowers in the spring, those flowers turn into clusters of berries that will attract birds and insects. The berries -- along with the rest of the plant -- release the scent of lemon. Most parts of the shrub are also edible and have been used for a variety of medicinal uses.