Missouri Gooseberry typically grows to a height of 6 ft tall and forms dense thickets. The branches and twigs are coated in protective thorns. The plant produces stalks of ½” to ¾” – long white-yellowish flowers that bloom in April and May. Leaves are lobed with wedge-shaped bases. The fruit is a smooth round berry about ½” in diameter when mature and ripens into a reddish purple to purplish black color. Each berry contains many minute seeds, which are dispersed in the feces of the animals that eat the berries. The plants are dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are found on separate plants, and only females plants bear fruit.
Seeds are dispersed by birds and mammals during the early fall. Cedar waxwings and robins are among the most common dispersers of Gooseberry seeds. Gooseberries may also be eaten and dispersed by squirrels and even foxes and opossums.
Missouri Gooseberry grows best in forest clearings with partial sun exposure. It prefers moist to slightly dry conditions in loamy, rocky soil with a good amount of organic material and often benefits from disturbance if some of the overhead tree canopy is removed.
In the Arb:
Gooseberries sometimes grow in such large clumps that they could be easily mistaken for an invasive species. Look for them near Stork Forest and on the side of Monument Hill to the southeast of Goodhue.