PLANT OF THE MONTH
(Black Swamp Gooseberry)
This gooseberry is a member of the Ribes family, and can be found throughout temperate regions of North America all the way from sea level to subalpine elevations. It is known to grow in a wide variety of habitats, which include slopes, swamps, stream banks, open woodlands, forest margins, and rock outcroppings. Nitrogen rich and relatively wet soils are preferred by this plant.
The plant itself is a deciduous shrub that is erect to spreading, with reddish brown bark on older areas of the stem and branches. It grows .5 to 2 meters high, and all branches and stems are covered with sharp yellowish spines, which are generally small except at nodes, where they are several times longer. The leaves are a variant on the characteristic Ribes leaf-shape, with palmate, toothed lobes. The small, geometrically beautiful flowers are arranged in a hanging raceme, and tend to be pinkish to maroon. Though covered in a thin layer of black hairs, this plant’s dark purple to black berries are edible and tart, and can be eaten raw or cooked.
For current availability of swamp gooseberry, click here.