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The History of the Boysenberry

March 27, 2014

Boysenberries by Elise Bauer

We’ve all heard of boysenberries, but do we really know their exciting, yet troubled past? It all started with a fellow named Mr. Rudolph Boysen – hence the name Boysenberry.

Rudolph Boysen was a horticulturist who had created this beautiful maroon-colored berry. He pollinated the common Blackberry with pollen from European Raspberries, American Dewberries, and Loganberries.12. As a result of this pollination, the seedlings produced a two inch long berry!

Mr. Boysen moved to his in-law’s farm in Anaheim, where the berry’s fate would become uncertain. He planted his new berries there, and they ended up doing quite well! He took specimens to Coolidge Rare Plant Nursery in Altadena in 1927, and they got such rave reviews that the nursery named it the “Sensation Berry of the 20th Century.” The head of the nursery is so stoked on the berry, that he sends a letter to George M. Darrow, the plant expert for the US Department of Agriculture at the time. Mr. Darrow files this note away, and despite the enticing moniker, the berry’s sales do not do well.

Life moves on for Rudolph, and he gains employment with the City of Anaheim as the Parks Superintendent. Somewhere down the line, while visiting a fire station, he falls down a fire pole hole, breaks his back and sustains other injuries. Hospitalized, and never to fully recover, Rudolph’s fate looks as grim as his berry.

BUT! Four years later, Mr. Darrow had been on a trip in Southern California, and remembers the letter he had filed away about this phenom-berry, and decides to investigate. His first stop was Coolidge nursery, where he found that the owner had died. Unfortunately, Boysen’s neglected berry vines had withered and died also. After hitting a few brick walls, George enlists the help of Walter Knott, who was also in the berry business. The two end up finding Boysen, and to their dismay, he doesn’t have any plants. He knows only of the vines that were at his in-law’s farm, which they sadly no longer owned.

Knotts Berry Bloom's

Un-daunted, they visit the farm, and find several pathetic looking vines that are being suffocated by weed overgrowth. With the permission of Boysen, Knott takes these vines back to his own farm in Buena Park, and nurses them back to health. Knott was the first to commercially sell these berries at his farm stand, and when people would ask what they were called, he would reply “Boysenberries,” after their creator! Their popularity grew, and with it, so did Mrs. Knott’s pie and restaurant business. This birthed Knott’s Berry Farm, and with its success, prompted Mrs. Knott to make her delicious Boysenberry Preserves. The Boysenberry Preserves were ultimately what made the Knott’s Berry Farm famous3, and the rest, they say, is history. Horray!!!!

As we speak, berry season is upon us, which calls for some seriously fun celebrating! Between the dates of April 12 – 27th, you can get your Boysenberry fill at Knott’s Second Annual Knott’s Berry Bloom Festival!
Knotts Berry Bloom's

At this berry-licious festival you’ll be able to partake in

  • The Ghost Town Boysenberry Festival
  • The re-creation of the original Roadside Boysenberry Stand
  • Gourmet, Boysenberry-inspired food and wine offerings from around the world

Knotts Berry Bloom's

  • Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies comedy show
  • Peanuts Party in the Park

Knotts Berry Bloom's

  • Bloomination Dance Party!

Knotts Berry Bloom's

  • Easter Beagle’s ENORMOUS Egg Hunt
  • Big Boardwalk Games, Flower Power musical revue, and Salsa Dancing in Fiesta Village.

Knotts Berry Bloom's

AND, there’s the normal Knott’s shenanigans going on, in addition to the fully restored Timber Mountain Log Ride! Have I sold ya yet? I’ll let you in on what I’m looking forward to the most – getting my hands on one of those Boysenberry vines that they’ll be selling at the re-created roadside stand. After all that history, who WOULDN’T want one? I’ve already got a spot in my garden ready for the glory!

See you there!

The opinions in this article are my own. I do not work for, or with, any brand mentioned in this article, nor do I have any official relationship with them. I have a relationship with GigaSavvy, for whom I create original editorial content.

1 Vaughan, John Griffith; C. A. Geissler (2009). The New Oxford Book of Food Plants. Oxford University Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-19-954946-7.
3 Wikipedia: Boysenberry


  1. Cynthia
    March 27, 2014 at 8:47 am

    But would I be able to eat an actual, uncooked, unjuiced, raw boysenberry? Where do they sell them? I have always wanted one and it is strange to me that you can’t buy fresh berries at Knotts.

    • Natalie Wiser-Orozco
      March 27, 2014 at 9:46 am

      I hear ya, Cynthia. It does seem strange! I have had some once – one of the farmers at the farmer’s market would sell them like two weeks out of the year. Sadly, he’s not there anymore though. But learning how large they are supposed to be, I’m skeptical that they were actual Boysenberries in the first place. I did tweet to them, and they don’t plan on selling the actual berries, but the person who manages their twitter account says that they’ll pass it on to their merch team! So, maybe we started something. I know if you and I are curious, there must be others too! I might want to make my own Boysenberry pie, dag-gummit!! I AM getting my grubby little hands on a plant though. If that happens, you and I will have plenty of Boysenberries!! 😀

      • Cynthia
        March 27, 2014 at 11:50 pm

        Omg if you get a plant and grow a berry for me I would be so thankful! It’s on my bucket list, which sounds silly but I really have always wanted a fresh boysenberry!

  2. Susie
    April 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Wow what an awesome history lesson! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Barbara Goldstein aka Barbo Gold
    June 4, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Memories, wonderful memories of long ago.
    I was born in 1933, just a year before Knott’s Berry Farm opened.
    My mom, being a southern farm gal, heard or read about the Knott’s farm with
    eager anticipation of driving out into the ‘country’ to have biscuits and jam,
    and see what the Knott’s were up to. She made her own biscuits daily and jam,
    country gravy, fried chicken and the works. She wanted to see if the Knott’s
    could really make authentic southern food. Well she went back there and took me
    even before the restaurant opened. I got to see the original Mr. Knott’s little game
    he played with the children, it was awesome. Little kids did not know how anyone
    could call them by name. I loved going there. When the restaurant opened we couldn’t
    wait to drive out into the country again from our Los Angeles home. We were not disappointed.
    My parents and Mr. and Mrs. Knott have long been gone, and I am 81 years old and I still
    go out to the ‘farm’ for a good chicken dinner and a little visit around the place.
    Our children were introduced to the ‘farm’ as soon as they were old enough to eat out.

    Thanks for the wonderful memories.
    Barbara Ann Goldstein
    San Juan Capistrano, Ca.

    • Natalie Wiser-Orozco
      June 4, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      Hello Barbara! Thank you so much for sharing your heartwarming story. It’s wonderful to meet somebody who remembers it from the very start!

  4. Mr. Rasmussen
    August 2, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    I used to grow boysenberries in Thousand Oaks in my yard in the 80s-90s, but my mother started the habit growing boysenberries in our yard in Oxnard from the early 60s and moved the vine ball with them when they went to Upland in the 70s until she died in 2010. If I knew how, i could post a photo of their fantastic berry vines. The plot was about 10′ x 40′, and they typically would fill 20-25 gallon ziploc bags of boysenberries every year.
    The thing about boysenberries is that they are quite delicate, and they will start to spoil quickly after becoming ripe. So it is almost impossible to buy unprocessed boysenberries commercially. Boysenberries, in my own humble, biased opinion, are the King of berries because they are so dense with the most wonderful flavor. Blackberries are more rugged than boysens and that is why blackberries can be bought at a store, but their flavor isn’t as dense/rich/warm as a boysen.
    The boysenberry plant is rather hardy, and will grow easily. I planted an individual root ball from my parents’ vine when I moved to the mountains of Prescott, AZ at 5,500fr elev. and the plant grew very well there. The climate is dry there, and gets quite cold (low teens overnight) and snows in the winter, but if you cut it back and cover it in the late fall, it recovers in the spring just fine. The problem was that i got few blossoms, and never any berries.
    So the above should explain why boysens are not available in stores, but also that you can grow them yourself, or if you are unfortunate enough to live without a yard, maybe someone you know with a yard can grow them and share.
    Very best of luck to you all.

    • Natalie Wiser-Orozco
      August 2, 2016 at 1:21 pm

      Thank you so much Mr. Rasmussen! I find that to be true. I did get some Boysenberry plants from Knott’s on this trip, and while the heat here in Southern California has got the best of them this season, they did produce a large handful. I’m hoping that the fall will yield more blossoms and fruit when this heat relaxes! I completely agree with you on this berry, though I am partial to blueberries myself. This is my second favorite! the flavor is amazing!


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