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 Ribes uva-crispa subsp. var.  Gooseberry
Habit: shrub
Height: to
Width: to
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Lifespan: perennial
Exposure: sun, part-sun
Water: moderate
Features: deciduous, edible, fruit
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USDA Zones: to
Sunset Zones:
Flower features:
Grossulariaceae > Ribes uva-crispa var. ,

Adaptation: Gooseberries grow best in summer humid, cool regions with great winter chilling. In California they are fairly productive in the coolest parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, the outer Coast Ranges and coastal northern California. They are probably not worth trying in southern California. except at high elevations. With proper attention gooseberries can be grown in containers.

Growth Habit: Gooseberries are deciduous shrubs, fast growing under optimum conditions to 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide. The plant is suitable for training as a standard. American types have weeping stems that will root wherever they touch the ground and can be invasive. Annual growth is in a single flush in spring. The roots are superficial, fine and easily damaged by frequent cultivation.

Foliage: The buds perk up early in the spring, dotting the stems with green when most other plants are still tawny. The leaves are alternate, single, deeply lobed, and glossy dark green (European types), or pale to gray-green and sometimes finely pubescent (American types). The stems are thin, becoming woody, with a large thorn at each axil. American gooseberry stems are densely bristly, with one or more additional thorns at each axil. Leaf size and number are reduced under heat or light stress, and are easily burned by intense sunlight. Plants that have been subject to drought may make a new growth flush after deep irrigation. If the roots are lost, regrowth will wait until the following spring.

Flowers: The inconspicuous flowers, green with pink flushed petals, open in early spring. They are borne laterally on one-year old wood and on short spurs of older wood. The flowers are self-fertile and pollinated by wind and insects, including bees. Each flower bud opens to yield from one to four flowers, depending on cultivar.

Fruit: The fruit, borne singly or in pairs at the axils, is a berry with many minute seeds at the center. A gooseberry may be green, white (gray-green), yellow, or shades of red from pink to purple to almost black. Fruits of the European gooseberry may be very large, like a small plum, but are usually 1 inch long, less in width. American gooseberry fruits are smaller (to 1/2 inch), perfectly round, all becoming pink to wine-red at maturity. Skin color is most intense in full sunlight. Berries generally drop when overripe. The fruit has a flavor all its own, the best dessert cultivars as luscious as the best apple, strawberry or grape.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Gooseberry. A bush-fruit, grown for its large berries, which are mostly consumed green in cookery.

The gooseberry has received comparatively little attention in America, although in northern Europe, and especially in the British Isles, it has long been a prime favorite, and a great improvement has taken place in its size there during the last 200 or 300 years. When it was first cultivated in Europe—probably in the sixteenth century— the wild fruit, if it was like what it is now, would be only about ½ in. in diameter and less than one quarter of an ounce each in weight. The largest gooseberries which have been produced in recent years average several times this size, the largest one of which there is a record weighing two ounces, although there are doubtless larger specimens produced. The English and European gooseberries are derived from a species native of northern Europe, Ribes grossularia (Figs. 1663, 1664). The varieties of Ribes grossularia do not succeed well in America as a general rule, although in some places they do well. The chief obstacle to their successful culture is the gooseberry mildew, which it has been found very difficult to control.

As late as 1846 no cultivated varieties of American species of gooseberries were mentioned by writers, an early reference, according to Bailey, being in 1849 in the Northern Fruit Culturist,"by Goodrich, where the author writes: "We have it from good authority that native sorts have been discovered both in New Hampshire and Vermont well adapted to garden culture." In 1847 the Houghton's Seedling was exhibited at a meeting of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, this being the first improved form of the native gooseberry of which there is a record. This variety was originated or found by Abel Houghton, Jr., Lynn, Massachusetts. It is probably a seedling of the native species, Ribes hirtellum (Figs. 1665, 1666, 1667). The first improvement on the Houghton was the Downing (Fig. 1668), a seedling of the Hough ton, which was originated by Charles Downing, Newburgh, New York, and first brought into notice in 1853. It is thought by some authorities to have been a hybrid between Houghton and Ribes grossularia, the European species. The Downing is still more largely planted in America than any other variety of gooseberry. This is doubtless largely due to the fact that comparatively little has been done toward improving the gooseberry in America during the past fifty years. The most work seems to have been done by William Saunders, late Director of the Dominion Experimental Farms, the originator of the Pearl, Josselyn (Red Jacket), and many other seedlings and crosses not yet on the market. There is a good field for work in improving the native gooseberries, as there is no apparent reason why the size should not be equal to the best English varieties. The quality of the American varieties is considered by some to be better than the average English gooseberry, but the flavor is not nearly so good as the best of the English sorts.

As the gooseberry is found growing wild almost or quite to the Arctic circle, its culture will no doubt be extended very far north. The most useful native species is the smooth gooseberry, Ribes hirtellum, which is found wild from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Next in importance is the prickly gooseberry, Ribes cynosbati, which has not so wide a range. Both of these gooseberries are of good quality. An interesting hybrid gooseberry was originated by Saunders by crossing Ribes cynosbati, with Warrington, a cultivated English variety. The size of the fruit was increased very much, but the gooseberry although good in quality remained prickly. If greater hardiness is desired it may be got in Ribes lacustre, which grows almost or quite to the Arctic circle. In its present state it is not nearly so useful as the other two species, the fruit being smaller and inferior in quality. There are other native species, such as Ribex lobbii, R. divaricatum, and R. rotundifolium, which may also play their part in the future improvement of the native gooseberry.

There is a steady though limited demand for gooseberries in America, but the gooseberry has never been generally popular on this continent. In England, gooseberries are used in great quantities for eating out of hand and for jam; in America few are used raw, most of the fruit being picked green and put into pies, caused as jam or canned. Those who are successful in growing the English varieties in America are usually enthusiastic in their praise as a fruit for eating raw.


Gooseberries may be propagated either from cuttings or by layering. The average person will usually get the best results from layering, as cuttings are often very unsatisfactory. To propagate by layering, the bushes should be pruned severely in the autumn. This will induce a strong growth of young wood the next season. When these Have made most of their growth, which will be early in July, the earth is heaped up around and through the bush until only the tips of the young shoots are left uncovered. The soil is packed down and then a covering of loose earth thrown over to retain moisture better. Most of the American varieties will have rooted well by autumn, and the young plants may be detached and planted in nursery rows either the same fall or the following spring, to be grown there for one season. English varieties usually take two years to root, and the soil must be left about the bushes for that time. Cuttings of American varieties will sometimes give fairly satisfactory results if made from well-ripened wood and treated as currant cuttings. The cuttings are made 6 to 8 inches or less in length, and buried in soil over winter. In spring they are set out in nursery rows, planting deep enough so that only one or two buds are above ground, Both American and English varieties may be propagated from greenwood cuttings in a greenhouse, or hotbed with bottom heat.

Soil, planting and culture.

The gooseberry is a moisture-loving plant, hence a soil should be chosen in which there will be a constant supply of water during the growing season. In dry soils gooseberries suffer very much in a dry time, the foliage often falling prematurely and the fruit being scalded by the sun. The soil should be a cool one. Moist soils are usually cool, but the surface of a sandy loam soil gets very hot in the summer, hence is not the best for this fruit. Well-drained, heavy clay loams are the most suitable for gooseberries as these usually are both cool and moist. The soil should have abundant plant-food easily made available. A good application of well-rotted manure thoroughly worked into the soil will do much to bring about these favorable conditions. The soil should be well prepared and made mellow as for a crop of roots. As gooseberries start to grow early in the spring it is usually preferable to plant in the autumn, and as the leaves drop early they may be planted in September and will be in good condition when winter comes. Well-rooted cuttings or layers may be used as plants. They should be set in rows about 6 feet apart and 4 feet apart in the rows.

Cultivation should be thorough to retain moisture and keep the soil cool, and as gooseberry roots near the surface, tillage should be shallow. Mulching with straw is sometimes advisable to keep the soil cool.

As the gooseberry makes much more wood than it is desirable to leave, severe pruning is necessary. English varieties are usually trained to a single stem, but this is not necessary, although the freer circulation of air when trained in this way may help to prevent the spread of mildew. The usual custom in America is to grow the gooseberry in bush form. The bush should at first be brought into a good shape by leaving a few of the strongest shoots regularly distributed to make an open head. Five or six of these shoots are quite sufficient to leave at first. As the bush gets older, new shoots are allowed to grow to take the place of the older ones, as the pruning should be done with a view to having only vigorous bearing wood. Fruit is borne on year-old wood and from spurs on older wood. It usually is not desirable to have any wood more than three years old. The best time to prune is in the autumn or winter. The weakest young shoots should be cut off at the ground, also all the stronger young shoots not required for fruiting or to take the place of the older branches to be cut. away. The side shoots from the older branches should be headed back or cut out altogether so as to maintain a fairly open head, making it as easy as possible to pick the fruit and yet leaving sufficient wood to produce a good crop and shade the fruit from the sun, as in a hot dry time gooseberries are liable to be injured by scalding. When branches are more than three years of age they should be removed to make way for younger wood. It is advisable to cut out all branches which touch the ground as there will then be a better circulation of air, and the fruit will be kept off the ground. Gooseberries will often begin to bear the second year after planting, but there will not be a full crop until the fourth season. If the soil is kept in good condition by an annual application of well-rotted barnyard manure in the autumn, harrowed in the following spring, and if the bushes are kept sprayed and well pruned, the plantation will not need to be renewed for many years. Sometimes a plant is trained to a single stem (Fig. 1669), to secure extra fine fruit, but it is only a home-garden practice and scarcely to be recommended

Yield of gooseberries.

The American gooseberry is a productive fruit and averages a good crop if well cared for. It is, however, very important to have good foliage to protect the fruit from the sun, and unfortunately many let the currant worm destroy a large proportion of the foliage, and if the weather is hot the fruit suffers. Six bushes of the Pearl have averaged at the Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa, Canada, in five years at the rate of 12,402 pounds an acre each year, or, at forty pounds to the bushel, over 310 bushels an acre. The highest yield was in 1905, when five bushes of Pearl 6x4 feet apart yielded seventy-five pounds, or at the rate of 27,225 pounds an acre, equal to over 680 bushels.

The highest yield mentioned by Card in his work on "Bush Fruits," is at the rate of 450 bushels an acre, obtained at the Geneva Experiment Station, New York. He gives the probable range from 300 to 500 bushels an acre. Bailey gives the average as 100 bushels an acre.

European gooseberries.

In Great Britain the gooseberry is one of the most popular fruits, and great quantities of the product are grown there every year. They are used to a large extent for eating out of hand when ripe, but are much in demand for making jam. Owing to their large size and good flavor; and their popularity in Great Britain, they were early imported into America, but it was soon found that owing to the gooseberry mildew the European varieties could not be successfully cultivated in most places in which the gooseberry grows. Where the climate approaches nearest to that of Great Britain, and the northern and moister parts of Europe, and there is considerable moisture in the air. not very high summer temperatures, and considerable cloudy weather, the European gooseberry succeeds best. Even in gardens in which there is a great deal of vegetation giving off much moisture, and in which the soil is shaded and cool, good success is often obtained and almost or quite as fine gooseberries produced as in England, but such instances are the exception.

Heavy clay soils are most suited to the gooseberry and there is little use trying to grow the European varieties in light soils. Clay soils are cool, and with them it is easier to secure the conditions necessary to success. Various methods are recommended for growing European gooseberries free from mildew. Mulching the soil heavily with straw is one. Mulching the soil with coal-ashes is another. Shading the soil with laths set on a frame 8 to 10 feet high is another. All these methods arc useful, but unless the air is moist above as it is cool and moist below, the conditions will be still more or less favorable for the development of the disease. The conditions of a thickly planted garden, where there is partial shade, seem the most favorable.

Varieties of gooseberries.

American: Pearl, Downing (Fig. 1668), Josselyn (Red Jacket). Houghton is the hardiest. European (of most general adaptation): Whitesmith, Industry (Fig. 1671). European (least affected by mildew at Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa, Canada): Companion, Eagle, Glenton Green, Queen of Trumps, Snowball. European (grown by R. B. Whyte, Ottawa, Canada, under garden conditions): Triumph, Lofty, Green Ocean, Conn, Weatherall, Sportsman.

Scalding of the fruit.

In a very hot dry time, gooseberries are often scalded, become unfit for use and fall to the ground. If the gooseberries are planted in heavy, cool soil and the ground kept well cultivated and the currant-worm prevented from eating the foliage there will be little trouble. Unfortunately, in many plantations the foliage is very scant, either on account of poor cultivation or injury from the currant-worm, and it is under such conditions that the greatest injury occurs.

Insects and diseases affecting the gooseberry.

Currant - worm or imported sawfly (Pteronus ribesii, Scop.).— By far the best known of all the insects which injure currants and gooseberries is the currant-worm. The black-spotted dark green false caterpillars of this insect may unfortunately be found in almost every plantation of currants or gooseberries, every year in almost all parts of the temperate regions of North America. The white eggs are laid in rows alone the ribs of the leaf on the lower side, toward the end of May. From these the young larva; hatch and soon make their presence known by the small holes they eat through the leaves. Unless promptly destroyed, they will soon strip the bushes of their leaves, thus weakening them considerably so as to prevent them ripening fruit the first year, and also reducing the quality of the crop of the following season. There are at least two broods in a season. The first appears just as the leaves are attaining full growth, and the second just as the fruit is ripening. The perfect insect is a four- winged fly which may be seen flying about the bushes early in spring. The male is blackish, with yellow legs and of about the same size as a house-fly, but with a more slender body. The female is larger than the male and has the body as well as the legs yellow. Remedy: For the first brood a weak mixture of paris green, one ounce to ten gallons of water, may be sprayed over the bushes, or a dry mixture one ounce of paris green to six pounds of flour may be dusted over the foliage after a shower or when the leaves are damp with dew. For the second brood paris green must not be used, but white hellebore; this is dusted on as a dry powder; or a decoction of this powder, one ounce to two gallons of water, may be sprayed over the bushes. It is, of course, far better to treat the first brood thoroughly, so as to reduce the number of female eggs which would lay eggs for the second brood.

Gooseberry fruit-worm (Zophodia grossulariae, Pack.). —Just before gooseberries ripen, clusters of two or three may sometimes be noticed, which are prematurely colored, and which are joined together by the webs spun by the caterpillar of a small moth. These caterpillars are pale greenish white and sometimes have a reddish tinge. They live inside the berries and, when the contents of one berry are consumed, attack another near at hand, joining it to the first by a silken web. When full grown they fall to the ground and spin brown parchment-like cocoons, just beneath the surface of the ground. The moths, which arc pale gray, marked with dark streaks and bands, are very rarely observed. They fly early in spring, and there is only one brood in the year. Remedy: The best method of controlling this insect, which fortunately is never very abundant, is to pick by hand the clusters of injured berries. It is thought that chickens and other poultry are useful in destroying the larva? and chrysalids; and it is certain that, while chickens are very small, they are useful in a garden in destroying a great number of injurious insects. The old hen, however, should be kept securely cooped up and not allowed to run at large. CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Ribes Grossularia, Linn. (Grossularia reclinata, Mill.). Shrub, to 3 ft.: branches ascending or reclining, with stout spines, about 1/2in. long, mostly in 3's, st. sometimes bristly: lvs. suborbicular, cordate to broadly cuneate, 3-5-lobed with crenulate-dentate, obtusish lobes, pubescent or glabrous, 3/4-2 1/2 in. broad: fls. 1-2, greenish; bracts small; ovary pubescent and often glandular; calyx-tube short-campanulate, about as long as the usually pubescent reflexed sepals; stamens shorter than sepals; style pubescent: fr. globose to ovoid, usually pubescent and glandular-bristly. Eu., N. Afr., Caucasus. Var. Uva-crispa, Smith (var. pubescens, W. D. Koch. R. Uva-crispa, Linn.). Low shrub: lvs. smaller, pubescent: ovary pubescent, not glandular: fr. very small, yellowish, pubescent. Var. reclinatum, Berl. (var. glabrum, W. D. Koch. R. reclinatum, Linn.). Lvs., calyx and fr. glabrous.—This species is the parent of the European gooseberries.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


Location: Gooseberries like morning sun, afternoon part-shade and buoyant air circulation. They are most productive in full sunlight but the leaves sunburn easily under California conditions. They can be grown in the high shade of fruit trees such as persimmon or on the north side of buildings. American gooseberry are much more sun tolerant. Plants collapse quickly when soil or air temperature exceeds 85° F.

Soil: Gooseberry plants are less finicky about soil acidity than most other small fruits, and tolerate a wide range of soils, except those that are waterlogged. Where summers are hot, bushes will grow better and produce better fruit in heavier soils, which retain more moisture and stay cooler. A thick mulch of some organic material also helps keep the soil cool. Sandy soils are less suitable for gooseberries because they dry out too fast.

Irrigation: With their fibrous, shallow roots gooseberries are ideal for drip system. Keep the plants watered all season, since they will not regenerate buds or leaves lost from drought stress. Plants stressed for water are susceptible to mildew.

Fertilization: Gooseberries have a high requirement for potassium and a moderate need for nitrogen, although excessive amounts of nitrogen promote disease, especially mildew. Between four and eight ounces of actual nitrogen per square yard strikes a good balance between growth and disease tolerance. The symptom of potassium deficiency is scorching of leaf margins. Deficiency can be avoided with an annual dressing of half an ounce of potassium per square yard. Gooseberry plants also have a fairly high requirement for magnesium, so if the soil is very acidic and needs lime, use dolomitic limestone, which supplies magnesium as well as calcium.

Pruning: A gooseberry bush is usually grown on a permanent short "leg" of about six inches, from which the bush is continually renewed with new shoots arising at or near ground level. Allow stems to grow for 4-5 years, then selectively remove oldest stems to make room for new shoots. Snap off any branches that form along or below the six-inch leg. Thorns make harvest tedious, so pruning is done to open up the bush and make picking easier. The plants may be grown as standards or cordons, but this requires a lot of care and the fruit often sunburns.

Harvest: Average yield from one gooseberry bush is between eight and ten pounds of fruit. Gooseberries used for culinary purposes such as tarts, etc. are usually picked underripe. A classic gooseberry concoction is a fool, made by folding cream into the stewed fruit. For dessert purposes, however, the fruit must be fully ripe.


The ease with which gooseberries propagate from cuttings depends on the cultivar. Generally, American cultivars are easier to root than are European cultivars. Take hardwood cutting in early fall, even before all the leaves have dropped. The presence of a few leaves actually enhances rooting. Make the cuttings about a foot long, but do not include tip growth, dip the base in hormone and pot in ordinary soil. Keep in part shade for the first year. Tip layering is a surer method of propagation, though a single bush furnishes far fewer layers than cuttings. If intended for training as standards or cordons, strip all buds off, cutting below the soil line. Seeds require moist stratification, just above freezing, for three to four months. The plants commence bearing in 5 years from seed and 2 years from cuttings.

Pests and diseases

Aphids commonly attack young leaves, distorting them. Spider mites are common in summer; spray immediately after harvest and thereafter on a regular schedule. The clear-winged borer lays its eggs on stems in April. The larvae hatch and bore into the central pith down to soil line and emerge to pupate in the fall. An infestation is usually detected only after the stem wilts and dies. Borers will spread and generally causes loss of whole planting without quick control. Cut out affected stems, search for others and spray. The gooseberry sawfly is present in the Pacific Northwest but has not yet been detected in California. Its small green worms will hollow out the berries, leaving an empty husk.

Ribes species are host for White Pine blister rust, which causes few problems for gooseberry, but is lethal for 5-needle pines, including California natives such as Western Pine (Pinus monticola) and Sugar Pine (P. lambertiana). Gooseberries are banned in counties where these pines are grown for lumber. Botrytis and Anthracnose can cause rot of leaves and loss of young growth, particularly stems lying on the ground or splashed during irrigation. Gooseberry mildew is a common problem, affecting both European and American types. It is worst in coastal fog, on drought-stressed plants, or where irrigation is by overhead sprinkling. Keep plants turgid, never stressed for water between irrigations. Benomyl spray before flowering and after harvest should control it. Roots are susceptible to both Oak Root fungus (Armillaria mellea) and Phytophthora.


The European gooseberry is the classic gooseberry of cookery and and desserts. The American gooseberry is smaller, adapted to more demanding cultural conditions and more productive, but without much character and generally inferior for all purposes. As the European can be grown in all Californian conditions suited for the gooseberry culture, the American is not recommended. Market demand for American gooseberries is static, while appreciation for the true European berry is growing. Experimentation with European types is limited under California conditions, and many cultivars have been introduced in recent years. Only those with proven production are described. Growers in unsuitable climates, looking for a substitute for gooseberry, should consider the Jostaberry or Buffalo Currant (Ribes aureum). See: Currants.


  • Glenndale - Origin USDA, Glenn Dale, MD, 1932. Ribes missouriense X R. grossularia. Bush very tall, fountain shaped, generally rooting at tips. Prolific production of very small, dark red to purple berries. Tolerates bright sun, was bred for growers at extreme southern limit of gooseberry culture.
  • Oregon Champion - Hybrid from cross of Crown Bob with Houghton. Origin O. Dickinson, Salem, 1876. Bush tall, weeping but rarely rooting at tips. Stems bristly, spiny. Begins growth very early. Somewhat tolerant of Armillaria. Prolific, fruits small, acid, hard and green when commercially harvested, becoming bland, sweet, greenish yellow upon maturity. Most common of gooseberry cultivars; another cv. 'Mountain' is often sold for it by unscrupulous nurserymen. 'Mountain' is more vigorous, sprawling, fruit brick to deep red.


  • Careless - Origin Britain. Bush spreading, tending to few branches. Few thorns. Rather prolific. Fruits yellow, rather elongated, becoming brown where sunburned, rather bland. Used for cooking in Europe; quality is higher in USA.
  • Early Sulphur - Syn. Yellow Rough. Origin Britain. Bush slow growing, susceptible to Armillaria. Slow to come into bearing. Fruits somewhat pear-shaped, deep yellow, smallish, with few bristles. Flavor very good.
  • Hinnonmakis Yellow - Hybrid from Finland, somewhat resistant to mildew. Fruit ripens midseason with a smooth, yellow skin. Fruit size is variable, excellent flavor.
  • Telegraph - Bush short, rather skimpy. Quite productive of outstandingly large, yellow fruits of fair flavor. Berries resist sunburn. Grown for size.
  • Whinham's Industry - Origin Britain. Bush slow growing. Fair production of round yellow berries, with many innocuous violet-red bristles, giving an overall red color to fruit. Flavor good.
  • Whitesmith - Origin Britain. Bush very dense, requires thinning to permit harvest. Somewhat tolerant of Armillaria. Fruits scattered throughout bush, medium, round to oval, pale green to white when ripe. Good flavor.



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