Canadian Gooseberry

Canadian gooseberry
Canadian gooseberry


This spiny stemmed gooseberry is the Canadian gooseberry (Ribes oxyacanthoides) and is a rescue plant I found several years ago under a power line right-of-way on the bluffs overlooking Lake Superior. It is a rescue plant because the shrubby growth under the line is often sprayed with herbicides. I guess you never can tell for sure when a shrub that normally grows to one meter tall might decide to shoot up 30 meters and tangle the lines. This plant now lives by my front door in a pile of stones. It flowers very early each spring with several dozen small white fragrant flowers on each spiny branch. I have noticed that the flowers are pollinated by queen bumblebees that have overwintered.

My Canadian gooseberry plant has thrived in its new home and soon I will need to divide it and plant the rooted pieces in another spot. Because Canadian gooseberry’s fragrant flowers attract and feed bumblebees when there are few other plants in bloom and its fruit is later eaten by birds I want this plant to be well-distributed in my yard.

Description of Canadian gooseberry
Canadian gooseberry is a small shrub with stiff, upright stems armed with prickles and with two to three short (5 mm) spines at the nodes. The rounded leaves are shallowly lobed and measure 1 to 3 mm by 2 to 3 mm. The lower surface of the leaves is hairy and mixed in with the hairs are short gland-tipped hairs. Glandular hairs and resin dots are common characteristics in many Ribes and may occur on leaves, petioles, fruit, and new stems.

One to four flowers are held in small clusters on 2 to 6 mm long pedicles with finely glandular-ciliate bracts. The sepals (2 to 4 mm) are oblong and blunt, the petals obovate (2 to 3 mm) and equal to or slightly smaller than the stamens. The glabrous ovary produces a greenish-purple fruit that may have a few short hairs or bristles. The fruit, like that of all Ribes, is edible.

Canadian gooseberry grows in moist uplands often with rocky soil in full sun to partial shade. Canadian gooseberry is listed as a “Threatened” species in Wisconsin and Michigan but is otherwise globally secure.

Canadian gooseberry flowers and leaves
Canadian gooseberry flowers and leaves


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