Swamp Gooseberry

smooth gooseberry fruit
Nadiatalent, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Botanical Name: Ribes hirtellum
Other Names: hairystem gooseberry, wild gooseberry, smooth gooseberry, hairystem gooseberry, hairy gooseberry
Family: Grossulariaceae Native to: Eastern North America, Interior North America
Hardy to zone: 4
Eco benefits: attracts pollinators, attracts birds, edible fruit
Natural habitat: swamps & bogs, inner forests, rocky slopes, forest edge
Shapes: multi-stemmed, wide spreading, upright
Unique attractions: flowers, fruit
Common uses: naturalized plantings
Light: full sun
Soil: moist and fertile, tolerates heavy clay, ph adaptable, sandy
Reproduction type: monoacious

Swamp gooseberry is a small, upright, and spreading deciduous shrub native to North America. It can be found in clearings, swampy woodlands, or rocky areas. It usually prefers nutrient rich sites with lots of moisture, but can grow on rocky terrain as well. R. uva-crispa and R. oxyacanthoides are closely related to swamp gooseberry.

The leaves are palmately-lobed, hairy, and bluntly serrated; dark green on-top, and paler underneath. Stems are woody, prickly, and with one to 3 spines at each node.

smooth gooseberry leaves
Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Flowers appear in April. The appearance is tubular and greenish, opening up to petals of white or purplish. The shrub is self pollinating (male and female flowers) but assisted primarily by bees. The fruit is green, turning reddish to purplish black and translucent. It's pleasant in taste and can be eaten raw or cooked in jams, jellies, or pies. For this reason, the shrub is often cultivated for its fruit.

smooth gooseberry flowers
Nadiatalent, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Swamp gooseberry is suceptable to honey fungus and is an alternate host for white pine blister rust. Since swamp gooseberry is resistant to American gooseberry mildew it's often crossed with the European gooseberry to create disease resistant crops.

smooth gooseberry young fruit
Nadiatalent, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Canadensys. (2020). Ribes hirtellum. Retrieved from https://data.canadensys.net/vascan/name/Ribes%20hirtellum

Natural Resources Conservation Service. (n.d.). Ribes hirtellum Michx. Retrieved from https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=RIHI#

Plants For A Future. (n.d.). Ribes hirtellum - Michx. Retrieved from https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Ribes+hirtellum

S.J. Meades and W.J. Meades. 2019+. Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador. Web design by Mirämar Design Studio, Inc., Sault Ste. Marie, ON. Published online. URL: https://www.newfoundland-labradorflora.com/