Ribes cynosbati (Prickly Gooseberry)

Plant Info
Also known as: Dogberry
Family:Grossulariaceae (Gooseberry)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; average to moist rich or rocky soil; hardwood or mixed forest, thickets, outcrops, floodplains, swamps
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:2 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: bell Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Spreading to dangling clusters of 1 to 4 (typically 2) stalked flowers arising from leaf axils on lateral branches. Flowers are about 1/3 inch long, generally bell-shaped, pale yellow to greenish-white with 5 short, erect petals. Extending from inside the tube are 5 pale yellow stamens that are a little longer than the petals. The calyx cupping the flower is green, the 5 sepal lobes are shorter than the tube but longer than the petals and narrowly oblong with rounded tips, sometimes spreading but more often strongly bent back (reflexed). Between the calyx and flower stalk is a green ovary covered in long, straight, stiff hairs. At the base of the flower stalk are small, lance-oval bracts that are hairy and glandular around the edges. Flower stalks are up to 5/8 inch long, hairless to finely hairy, often glandular-hairy, the cluster stalk more densely hairy.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are ¾ to 2 inches long and about as wide, mostly heart-shaped at the base, with 3 to 5 primary lobes that are notched or shallowly lobed, the lobes and notches mostly rounded at the tip. Surfaces are hairy, sometimes glandular hairy. Veins are prominent and radiate from the base. Leaf stalks are up to 1¼ inch long and covered in a mix of long, spreading hairs and shorter glandular hairs.

[photo of lower stem with persistent prickles and spines] New twigs are green, moderately to densely covered in short hairs and prickles with 1 to 3 long spines at branch and leaf nodes. By the second year the bark on upper stems has turned gray-brown and the prickles and spines often fallen away, the thin bark sometimes splitting to reveal reddish stems with scattered white lenticels (pores). Older bark lower on the lower stems is brownish gray, usually with persistent prickles and spines.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] The hairy ovary expands into a round berry 1/3 to 2/3 inch in diameter, the stiff hairs becoming persistent prickles. Berries ripen from green to light purplish red.


The Ribes species consist of both gooseberries and currants. Gooseberries are distinguished by at least some stems having spines or thorny prickles, which currants lack, and clusters of 1 to 4 flowers where currants have larger racemes of 6 or more flowers. When flowering or fruiting, Prickly Gooseberry is easily distinguished by the hairy ovary that becomes prickly fruit. Missouri Gooseberry (Ribes missouriense) is most similar in habitat and prickliness, but has more slender flowers with very long stamens, and lacks glandular hairs on leaf surfaces and stalks.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Susan - Southwestern MN
on: 2016-05-13 10:10:57

I saw this plant in the Plum Creek floodplain in Walnut Grove, MN.

Posted by: Bayers - Excelsior, Bike Trail
on: 2016-07-13 09:57:46

If you go into the ditches along Excelsior bike trail there are many Gooseberries waiting to be grabbed. The city doesn't seem to want the plants there though, I see them cut back every year yet they grow back stronger than ever!

Posted by: Bill - Grant
on: 2019-05-19 12:46:19

This is all over my woods; more of it than I would like. I'd guess this might be because my land may have been a pasture many decades ago and the grazing animals may have selected for it. Is it overgrown? Thoughts on removal and/or management?

Posted by: Kari Howey - Crookston
on: 2020-05-12 15:22:18

Found several gooseberry shrubs growning in a cluster, near my water meter, on the north side of my house. Transplanted in front & hope the grow.

Posted by: Kevin Demsky - Cannon Falls
on: 2020-05-14 10:59:06

Sogn Valley bluff land.

Posted by: Stuart Bensen - Erskine
on: 2020-08-02 13:16:34

I have this plant all over my property. 105 acres of woods, mostly Burr Oak and Ash. It is the most nasty plant I have ever encountered. It penetrates a leather glove easily. Clearing a space for a new storage shed and no more grabbing brush by hand.

Posted by: David Baker - Lynden Township
on: 2021-05-21 12:31:17

I've been trying to get rid of this on my two acre lot for 20 years. Just found out what it is, so maybe I was wrong. Is this the gooseberry my father said his grandmother made pies out of? If so I'll have to try to get some fruit. My fluffy dog gets it caught in has tail. Other than that it does not bother me. Hard to get rid of if you don't like it.

Posted by: David Klinski - Caledonia Houston Co.
on: 2021-09-30 19:57:27

I have about 150 acres of timber, steep hill sides loaded with prickly goose berry. I started to cut It as it could be called a native invasive. What is the best way to kill It?

Posted by: Kari Howey - Crookston
on: 2023-05-06 18:27:52

Gooseberry bushes that I transplanted have been doing great! Easy to transplant and very vigorous.

Posted by: Rod - Rochester, MN
on: 2023-05-23 10:37:40

Pulled most of this from the woods behind my house. Might be native but it acts invasive and it has synergies with garlic mustard and whatever the purple invasive that looks like phlox

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-05-23 11:01:31

Rod, that purple invasive would be dame's rocket.

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