The Canadian gooseberry (Ribes oxyacanthoides) is a small, erect, perennial shrub with prickly branches and edible fruits (2) (3) (4) (5). Its younger branches are yellowish-grey and slightly hairy, but become smoother and more reddish-brown with age (3) (6). In addition to the prickles along its branches, this species has longer spines where stems meet the branch (3) (5) (6).
The leaves of the Canadian gooseberry are borne on short stalks (3) and grow at alternating points along the branches (2). Each leaf measure up to four centimetres across and consists of three to five lobes (2) (3), with irregularly toothed margins (3). The underside of the leaf is somewhat hairy (2) (3) (5).
The Canadian gooseberry’s small flowers range from white to greenish-white, pinkish or purplish, and grow singly or in small clusters of two or three. The flowers are tubular or bell-shaped, and are surrounded by spreading sepals, which are greenish-white to pinkish and are longer than the petals (2) (3) (6). The stamens of the flower are also longer than the petals (2) (3).
As in other Ribes species (currants and gooseberries), the fruit of the Canadian gooseberry is a berry containing numerous seeds (2) (7). The smooth, round berries of this species are reddish, greenish-purple or deep purplish (2) (3) (5), and measure up to 1.6 centimetres across (3).
Five subspecies of the Canadian gooseberry are recognised: Ribes oxyacanthoides oxyacanthoides (Canadian gooseberry), Ribes oxyacanthoides cognatum (stream currant or Umatilla gooseberry), Ribes oxyacanthoides hendersonii (Henderson’s currant or Henderson’s gooseberry), Ribes oxyacanthoides irriguum (Idaho gooseberry) and Ribes oxyacanthoides setosum (Canadian, inland or redshoot gooseberry) (1) (3).
- Also known as
- bristly wild gooseberry, hawthorn-leaved gooseberry, Henderson’s currant, Henderson’s gooseberry, Idaho gooseberry, inland gooseberry, northern gooseberry, redshoot gooseberry, stream currant, Umatilla gooseberry.
- Grossularia cognata, Grossularia oxyacanthoides, Ribes cognatum, Ribes hendersonii, Ribes irriguum, Ribes setosum.
- Height: up to 2 m (2) (3)
Canadian gooseberry biology
Relatively little information is available on the biology of the Canadian gooseberry. It flowers between March and August, depending on the location (3), and may produce berries between June and September (5). The berries of the Canadian gooseberry are edible to humans (3) (5).
Canadian gooseberry range
A North American species, the Canadian gooseberry is found from Alaska, across Canada to Quebec and Labrador, and south into the western and central United States. Its range extends as far south as Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan (3) (5).
Canadian gooseberry habitat
The Canadian gooseberry generally inhabits moist woodlands and other cool, wet areas (2) (5) (6), including stream banks, rocky slopes, hillsides, lake shores, forest openings and thickets (3).
Canadian gooseberry status
The Canadian gooseberry has yet to be classified by the IUCN.
Canadian gooseberry threats
The Canadian gooseberry is listed as a ‘Threatened’ species in Wisconsin and as ‘Sensitive’ in Washington (4) (6). However, very little information is available on the potential threats to this species, and its conservation status has yet to be assessed by the IUCN (8).
Canadian gooseberry conservation
There are no specific conservation measures currently known to be in place for the Canadian gooseberry.
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Find out more about the Canadian gooseberry:
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- A plant that normally lives for more than two seasons. After an initial period, the plant produces flowers once a year.
- A floral leaf (collectively comprising the calyx of the flower) that forms the protective outer layer of a flower bud.
- The male reproductive organ of a flower. Each stamen is comprised of an anther (the pollen-producing organ) and a filament (stalk).
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (July, 2011)
Mohlenbrock, R.H. (2008) Aquatic and Standing Water Plants of the Central Midwest. Acanthaceae to Myricaceae: Water Willows to Wax Myrtles. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, Illinois.
Flora of North America - Ribes oxyacanthoides (July, 2011)
USDA PLANTS Database - Canadian gooseberry, Ribes oxyacanthoides (July, 2011)
Petrides, G.A. (1972) A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs: Northeastern and North-Central United States and Southeastern and South-Central Canada. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.
Kopitzke, D.A. and Sweeney, J.M. (2000) Threatened and Endangered Species in Forests of Wisconsin: A Guide to Assist with Forestry Activities. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, Wisconsin. Available at:
Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
IUCN Red List (July, 2011)