Hillside Gooseberry

Hillside Gooseberry © KKorbholz

California Gooseberry
Ribes californicum var. californicum

Description (Jepson, PlantID.net)

    • Eudicotyledon
      • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
    • Gooseberry Family (Grossulariaceae)
    • Deciduous shrub
    • 3-4 leaves in a cluster; lobed with toothed margins
    • 3 spines at nodes (junction of leaf and stem); sometimes entire stem is spiny
    • Flowers
      • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) a raceme (unbranched stem with stalked flowers opening from the bottom up) of 1-3 pendent flowers
      • Sepals (usually green, outer flower parts) are showy, white to green with a rosy tinge, and upwardly-reflexed
      • Petals are white or pink, fused, and in-rolled
      • Stamens (male flower parts) and pistils (female flower parts) are exserted (extending beyond petals}
      • Ovary inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
    • Fruit a berry (a usually multi-seeded fruit with a fleshy ovary wall) with bristles; red and translucent in maturity
    • Height to 4.6 ft.


      • Native and endemic (limited) to California
        • Grows in forest openings, woodlands, and chaparral
        • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
      • Grows at elevations to 2,400 ft.
      Fruit © DSchiel

      Uses (Picking or removing any natural material from public land is illegal)

        • Valuable food and habitat for wildlife; spines of the fruit do not prevent birds and mammals from eating the berries
        • Host plant for tailed copper butterfly caterpillar (Lycaena arota)

        Name Derivation

          • Ribes (RIE-bees) – from the Arabic for a shrub with acidic fruit
          • Gooseberry – from possible corruption of a Dutch (kruisbezie), German (Krausbeere), or French (groseille) word


            • Sepals (usually green, outer flower parts) are the showy part of the flower
            • Flowers, leaves, and spines arise from the same node
            • Edgewood’s hillside gooseberry is classified as a variety
              • Subspecies rank is used to recognize geographic distinctiveness, whereas variety rank is appropriate for variants seen throughout the geographic range of the species; in practice, these two ranks are not distinct

            ID Tips

                Spines © DSchiel
              • May be confused with chaparral currant (R. malvaceum)
                • Hillside gooseberry, like all gooseberries, has spines on stems and berries
                • Chaparral currant, like other currants, lacks spines
              • May be confused with canyon gooseberry (R. menziesii var. menziesii)
                • Hillside gooseberry is common at Edgewood
                  • Grows in sun or shade
                  • Leaves are not hairy and usually not sticky (glandular)
                  • Spines generally occur only at the nodes (junction of leaf and stem)
                • Canyon gooseberry is uncommon at Edgewood
                  • Grows in shade
                  • Has sticky (glandular), hairy leaves
                  • Has densely spiny stem

              At Edgewood

                • Found in chaparral and woodlands
                  • See iNaturalist for observations of Ribes californicum
                • Flowers January – April

                See General References

                Specific References

                  Allen, T.J., et al. 2005. Caterpillars in the Field and Garden, Oxford University Press.