Ribes oxyacanthoides

Canadian Gooseberry

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods



  • Ribes, from the Arabic or Persian ribas, "acid-tasting", referring to the fruit
  • oxyacanthoides, from the Latin
  • Common Name, from
  • Other common names include: Northern Gooseberry, Inland Gooseberry, Idaho Gooseberry, Henderson's Gooseberry, Umatilla Gooseberry, Missouri Gooseberry


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
      • Subclass Rosidae, the Roses
        • Order Rosales, the Roses
          • Family Grossulariaceae, the Gooseberries
            • Genus Ribes, Currants and Gooseberries
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 24493
  • Also known as Ribes cognatum, Ribes hendersonii, Ribes irriguum, Ribes setosum
  • Five subspecies recognized: ssp. cognatum (Umatilla Gooseberry), ssp. hendersonii (Henderson's gooseberry), ssp. irriguum (Idaho Gooseberry), ssp. oxyacanthoides (Northern Gooseberry), ssp. setosum (Inland Gooseberry, Missouri Gooseberry)
  • Most regional floras consider the five subspecies to be separate species.



  • A native, deciduous shrub, 1½'-5' tall.
  • Leaves
  • Branches erect to sprawling, covered with prickles. Nodes have several ¼"-½" stout spines.
  • Flowers single or in clusters of two to three.
  • Fruit a berry, 0.3"-0.6" in diameter with numerous seeds.
  • Roots shallow, radiating from a central crown.


  • Across boreal Canada from Hudson Bay to Alaska, south into the US to the Palouse, northern Rockies, Black Hills, Upper Missouri, and Great Lakes States.


  • Rocky and sandy shores, stony banks, talus slopes and outcrops and in clearings, moist woods, and thickets, generally at low elevations in the boreal forest.
  • Moderately shade tolerant, occurring in open woods and forests.


  • Common in forest habitats that are characterized by long fire-free intervals punctuated by severe stand-replacing fires, such as Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides), and Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana). The ability to regenerate after fire from long-lived seed stored in soil or from off-site sources makes this species fairly resilient to stand-replacing fire.
  • May be able to sprout from the root crown after low-severity fire. Fire that burns and removes the organic soil will likely kill the shallow root system.
  • Seed contained in the organic mantle probably killed by severe fire, but seed buried in the mineral soil probably survives. Probably colonizes burned sites via long-lived seed and/or seed carried on-site by animals.
  • Severe fire creates canopy openings and suitable mineral seedbeds for gooseberry establishment.




  • Fruit more or less palatable to humans.


  • Regenerates by seed, producing first seeds when 3-5 years old.
  • Some seed dispersal by animals, but many berries fall to the ground beneath the parent plant.
  • Scarification and stratification enhance germination. Mineral soil is the best seedbed. Seeds have longterm viability, accumulating in the organic layer and mineral soil over time.
  • The ability to regenerate vegetatively by rhizomes or by sprouting is not documented.


  • By seed, following scarification and cold stratification.


  • Alternate host for White Pine Blister Rust (Cronartium ribicola) which

  • infests five needle pines. Because of their association with the rust, Ribes spp. have been a target of various eradiction efforts. Only a few bushes per acre are sufficient to perpetuate blister rust.


Boreal border
Last updated on 9 August 1999