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(Gooseberry family)


Controversy exists as to the delimitation of this family. Brummitt (1992) and Polunin (1969) regard the family as comprising only the genus Ribes L. Mabberley (1987), by contrast, considers the family to comprise 340 species in 23 genera, whilst Willis (1973) recognised 2 genera (Ribes L. and Grossularia Mill.). The family was formerly included in a variable Saxifragaceae.

The family Escalloniaceae, although subsumed into the Grossulariaceae by Mabberley (1987), is here considered as a distinct family.

Some species are armed with spines capable of causing mechanical injury.

Ribes L.

About 150 species are found in northern temperate regions and in the Andes (Mabberley 1987). Many are grown as ornamental shrubs (flowering currant, Californian fuchsia); others for their edible fruit (blackcurrants, redcurrants, whitecurrants, Worcesterberries, gooseberries).

Turner & Bell (1971) record that the stiff sharp thorns of R. divaricatum Douglas, R. lacustre Poir., and R. lobbii A.Gray were used by the Indians of the N.W. coast of North America as probes for skin boils and for removing splinters.

Ribes divaricatum Douglas
[syn. Grossularia divaricata Steud.]

The Worcesterberry was at one time believed to be a cross between the gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa L.) and the blackberry (Ribes nigrum L.) but is now considered to be a distinct species (Hunt 1968/70).

The stems of this plant are densely covered with spines, which can cause mechanical injury.

Ribes nigrum L.
[syn. Grossularia nigra Mill. ex Steud.]
Blackcurrant, Quinsyberry

Blackcurrant pickers on an island in the gulf of Gävle (Sweden) suffered a dermatitis that was ascribed to trombiculid mite infestation — trombiculosis (Westman 1999).

Ribes speciosum Pursh
[syn. Grossularia speciosa Coville & Britton]
Californian Fuchsia

The stems of this plant are densely covered with spines, which can cause mechanical injury.

Ribes uva-crispa L.
[syns Grossularia spinosa Garsault, Ribes grossularia L.]

The spines of the gooseberry can produce mechanical injury (Buhr 1960). Sensitivity to gooseberry was reported by de Besche (1929).


  • Brummitt RK (1992) Vascular Plant Families and Genera. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens [WorldCat]
  • Buhr AJ (1960) The thorn in the flesh. Lancet 275(7119): 309-310
  • de Besche A (1929) Serologische Untersuchungen über "Allergische Krankheiten" beim Menschen. Acta Pathologica Scandinavica 6: 115
  • Hunt P (Ed.) (1968/70) The Marshall Cavendish Encyclopedia of Gardening. London: Marshall Cavendish [WorldCat]
  • Mabberley DJ (1987) The Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of the higher plants. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Polunin O (1969) Flowers of Europe. London: Oxford University Press [WorldCat]
  • Turner NC, Bell MAM (1971) The ethnobotany of the Coast Salish Indians of Vancouver Island. Economic Botany 25(1): 63-104 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Westman A (1999) Kvalstren bakom båaskubb slog till vid bärplockning på ö i Gävlebukten. [Mites behind an "island rash" during blackcurrant picking on an island in the gulf of Gävle]. Läkartidningen 96(32-33): 3437-3439
  • Willis JC (1973) A Dictionary of the Flowering Plants and Ferns, 8th edn. (Revised by Airy Shaw HK). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat]

Richard J. Schmidt

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