Ribes missouriense Nutt.

Missouri Gooseberry


CC = 3
CW = 5
MOC = 78

© DETenaglia

Family - Grossulariaceae

Habit - Shrub.

Stem - Spreading or arching, to 2 m, sometimes armed with stiff internodal bristles (slender prickles), more commonly with slender straight to slightly curved nodal spines, these 7-18 mm long, reddish brown. Bark smooth or somewhat scaly, peeling or shredding in narrow papery strips, dark gray to reddish brown.

Ribes_missouriense_stem1.jpg Stem and prickles.

© SRTurner

Ribes_missouriense_stem2.jpg Stem and nodal spines.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Alternate, often appearing fascicled, simple, petiolate. Petioles 0.6-2.0 cm long, often with dense nonglandular hairs. Leaf blades 0.5-3.0 cm long, broadly obovate to broadly ovate in outline, broadly narrowed to rounded or sometimes subcordate at the base, 3- or 5-lobed, the lobes mostly rounded to bluntly pointed at the tip, the margins toothed, the upper surface sparsely to moderately minutely nonglandular-hairy, becoming glabrous or nearly so and somewhat shiny with age, the undersurface sparsely and minutely nonglandular-hairy, especially along the veins, becoming glabrous or nearly so with age.

Ribes_missouriense_leaves1.jpg Leaves.

© SRTurner

Ribes_missouriense_leaves.jpg Pressed leaves.

© DETenaglia

Inflorescence - Small axillary clusters or racemes of pendent flowers, sometimes appearing umbellate, the stalks 4-13 mm long, with a minute glandular or herbaceous bract toward the midpoint.

Ribes_missouriense_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescences.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Perfect, actinomorphic, epigynous. Hypanthium cylindrical, the tubular portion above the ovary 1.5-2.5 mm long, greenish white to cream-colored, glabrous or sometimes with sparse minute nonglandular hairs. Sepals 5, 5-8 mm long, longer than the hypanthium tube. Petals 5, 2.0-3.5 mm long, white or sometimes tinged with pink, shorter than the sepals and often shorter than the stamens. Stamens 5, long-exserted, alternating with the petals, attached to the hypanthium. Pistil 1 per flower, of 2 fused carpels. Ovary inferior, not grooved, glabrous, with 1 locule, with few to many ovules, the placentation parietal. Style 1, sometimes 2-lobed, elongating during flowering.

Ribes_missouriense_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Berries 6-12 mm long, globose, glabrous, without prickles, green and translucent when young, becoming red to purple at maturity.

Ribes_missouriense_fruit1.jpg Immature fruit.

© SRTurner

Flowering - April - May.

Habitat - Forests, streambanks, roadsides, previously grazed or clear-cut areas.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - R. cynosbati, also Physocarpus opulifolius when not flowering.

Other info. - This is by far the most common wild gooseberry in Missouri, occurring across most of the state except for the Bootheel region. Its range within North America is a well-defined patch in the Midwest, mostly confined to about 7 states centered at about the Missouri - Iowa border.

Missouri gooseberry is easily recognized by its leaf shape and prickly stems, although the latter character is somewhat variable. The fruits are smooth, unlike those of its sibling species R. cynosbati, which has prickly fruits. The latter species also typically has glandular hairs on the leaf petioles, whereas Ribes missouriense petioles are usually nonglandular. The immature green fruits are juicy and pleasantly tart, and could theoretically be made into pies or preserves. However, collecting enough of the berries for such a purpose might be challenging even though the plants are common, possibly because the fruits are quickly scavenged by wildlife. As they mature, the berries become dark purple and insipid, and are not worth eating.

The species has also been called Grossularia missouriense (Nutt.) Coville & Britton.

Photographs taken in the Piney Creek Wilderness, MO., 4-4-04 (DETenaglia), also at Weldon Spring Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 05-18-2008, Little Lost Creek Conservation Area, Warren County, MO, 04-23-2014, and Young Conservation Area, Jefferson County, MO, 04-18-2015 (SRTurner).