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 internodes have bristles
  • 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}
    • Sepals, petals, and stamens (male flower parts) fused at base into a cup-like structure (hypanthium)
    • 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 (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)

  • 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
  • Spines on stems help deter herbivory
    • Spines are sharp-pointed modified leaves, as on cacti and at Edgewood on gooseberries, or leaf parts, as on leather oaks
    • Prickles grow from the outer layers (epidermis) of plant stems, as on roses and blackberries
    • True thorns are sharp-pointed modified stems, as grow on citrus trees and at Edgewood on chaparral pea (Pickeringia montana var. montana)
  • 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
Spines © DSchiel

ID Tips

  • May be confused with chaparral currant (R. malvaceum)
    • Hillside gooseberry, like all gooseberries, has spines on stems and bristles on 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)
      • Has spines at nodes (junctions of leaf and stem), but usually lacks bristles between nodes
    • Canyon gooseberry is uncommon at Edgewood
      • Grows in deeper shade
      • Has sticky (glandular), hairy leaves
      • Has spines at nodes and dense bristles between nodes

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.