Good Food and Fair Cover

Prickly (Pasture) Gooseberry – Ribes cynosbati
Missouri Gooseberry – R. missouriense
Roundleaf Gooseberry – R. rotundifolium
Smooth Gooseberry – R. hirtellum

Gooseberry family- Small densely twiggy shrubs with rounded tops and spreading or arching branches. Sometimes prickly and stems with shredding, flaky bark. 1 to 3 thorns at base of each leaf. Leaves deciduous, simple, 3 to 5 lobed and alternate.


Rounded shrubs with spreading or arching branches. Mature heights are 3 to 5 feet for Prickly, 7 feet for Missouri , 3 feet for Roundleaf and 3 feet for Smooth.


Prickly – Twigs gray to dark brown with or without a few bristles between the thorns.
Missouri – Large thorns up to ½ to ¾ inch long.
Roundleaf – Short thorns to ¼ inch long.
Smooth-Short thorns of ¼ to 1/3 inch long and a few bristles on stems.


Prickly-Soft, hairy.
Roundleaf-Smooth with rounded lobes.
Smooth-Smooth with pointed lobes.

Flowers and Fruits

Prickly-Flowers greenish (May-June) fruit red-purple, overed with long spines (July-Sept.)
Missouri-Flowers whitish (April-May), fruit black, smooth (June-Sept.)
Roundleaf-Flowers green to purple (April-June), fruit smooth, tasty (June-Sept.)
Smooth-Flowers green to purple (April-July), fruit black, smooth, tasty (June-Sept.).

West Virginia Range

Prickly- Fayette, Grant, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, Marion, Marshall, Mercer, Mineral, Monongalia, Monroe, Nicholas, Ohio, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Raleigh, Randolph, Summers, Tucker, Upshur and Wetzel.
Missouri-Rare, currently known only from Wayne .
Roundleaf-Grant, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hancock, Marshall , Mineral, Pendleton, Pochontas, Randolph and Tucker.
Smooth-Rare, known only from Kanawha.

Natural Habitat

Prickly-Rocky woods.
Missouri-Open woods, thickets and fencerows.
Roundleaf-Rocky woods of mountains.
Smooth-Rocky, swampy woods.

Wildlife Use

Fruits are eaten by a variety of songbirds such as catbirds, bluejay and robin, as well as grouse, mourning dove and bobwhite. Also eaten by chipmunk, raccoon, rabbit and skunk. Twigs and bark are sometimes eaten by deer and mice.


Uses: Specimen, hedge or small groupings.
Light: Light shade.
Soil Moisture: Moist, well drained soil.
Soil pH: Medium acid.
Problems: Leaves can be damaged or killed by anthracnose, rusts orleaf spots.

Compiled by: William N. Grafton, naturalist, botanist and wildlife extension specialist West Virginia University , Morgantown , West Virginia

Written by West Virginia Native Plant Society members and jointly published with the WV Wildlife Diversity Program.