"Fiber, Vitamin, Mineral Packed Plant is the New Texas SuperStar™!" | By Kitty Angell

Natchez blackberries are very large, 
averaging a third of an ounce each. 
(Texas A&M AgriLife Extension 
Service photo by Dr. Larry Stein)
"Yay! We have a new Texas SuperStar™! The Natchez thornless Blackberry is our newest plant to garner that coveted title. Dr. Larry Stein, Texas A&M Agri-Life Extension Service horticulture specialist in Uvalde, has worked with mainly pecans, fruits, grapes, and vegetable crops for years and heartily endorses this berry. He feels these berries are special because they are easy to grow and packed with dietary fiber, vitamins C and K, folic acid, antioxidants, and manganese, an essential mineral.

Not only do they taste good, but they are pretty. Natchez blackberries are very large, averaging a third of an ounce each. “The fruit are elongated, somewhat blocky and very attractive with an exceptional glossy, black finish, and it stores well,” states Dr. Stein. “Of all the thornless varieties we’ve looked at, this one has been the best to date.”

This is somewhat of a feat, as thornless blackberries are usually not as flavorful or productive as their thorned brothers. Unfortunately, the Lone Star State cannot take responsibility for this fruitful beauty, as the Natchez was developed by a University of Arkansas breeding program. 

Texas SuperStar™ plants, however, must undergo rigorous tests throughout the state by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension horticulturists according to Dr. Brent Pemberton, AgriLife Research horticulturist. Dr. Pemberton says, “These plants can be planted anytime they are available, but are best planted as dormant plants in mid-winter when they can have an entire growing season to become established so that a nice crop of berries can be harvested the following year.”

Just as Texas always represents the biggest and the best, Texas SuperStar™ plants must not just be beautiful but must also perform well for growers and consumers throughout our state. 

“They must be easy to propagate, ensuring that plants are not only widely available throughout Texas, but also be reasonably priced,” said Pemberton. “Like other blackberries, you plant them one year and they will fruit the next year. Plant in mid-to-late January or early February, cover it with soil, and in the spring, it pushes up a shoot, and away you go. The fruit will ripen the next year in late May to early June.”

Another big factor is the insect/disease resistant plant when it comes to SuperStars™, and this berry aced these trials. The Natchez fertility needs are not exceptional, pretty much the same as other fruit plants. “Typically, we need a nitrogen fertilizer. Although, if the soil pH is low, you can use a 3-1-2 (ratio) fertilizer, something like a 15-5-10,” said Stein.

Like most fruit crops, blackberries should be planted in full son. Very minimal bed preparation is needed as long as the soil is well-drained. 

The Natchez is a semi-erect plant, which means it will need a trellis. Give these plants enough space to thrive properly in the sun.

Will they grow in the coastal bend? One of our Master Gardeners told us that she had planted the Natchez Thornless Blackberry last year. “Now I am enjoying a plentiful amount of sweet, flavorful fruit!” she exclaimed. Unlike blueberries, which prefer the acid soil of East Texas, the blackberry loves our alkaline soil. 

So there it is: Insect/disease resistant, drought resistant, functioning at the highest standards of beauty, bounty, and flavor; our new Texas SuperStar™ passed all the tests. We now have a new plant that “does well” in our state...the Natchez Thornless Blackberry."
By Kitty Angell, Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener

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