Fuchsia Flowered Gooseberry (R. speciosum). Photograph by Brother Alfred Brousseau.
Ribes (ri bez) is comprised of about 120 species of shrubs and subshrubs of the northern hemisphere and the Andes Mountains of temperate South America. The genus has two wings, the gooseberries and the currants. Gooseberries have thorny and often bristly branches and stems, bristly fruits and inflorecences that are comprised of one to four flowers, while the currants totally lack thorns or bristles, and the flowers are produced in many-flowered racemes. There are, however, a number of species that exhibit intermediate features, and thus the genus has not been divided. Some authorities consider Ribes to represent the only genus of Grossulariaceae (the Gooseberry Family), while others place it as a subfamily within Saxifragaceae (the Saxifrage Family).
There are thirty-one Ribes species in California, twelve of which occur in the Santa Lucia Mountains: three currants and nine gooseberries. Noteworthy Ribes of this range include R. sericeum, an endemic species, R. roezlii, a montane disjunct, and R. menziesii hystrix, a nearly endemic lesser taxon. This text also provides a key to, and illustrations of, all the gooseberries of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
Ribes sericeum Eastwood
Although confined to the Santa Lucia Mountains, Ribes sericeum, based on the number of specimens on file at Northern California herbariums, appears to be fairly common within its range, where it occurs along or near streams and on shady woodland slopes. From north to south populations are scattered from the Bixby Creek and Jamesburg areas to Lopez Canyon, about four miles east of San Luis Obispo, and all known populations occur below 3000 ft.
Ribes sericeum can be distinguished from the other gooseberries within its range by an easy process. First look at the plant's branches, if they are bristly throughout, you're on the right track. Then observe the flowers: if the divisions (i.e., the sepals, petals and stamens) are in fives, keep going. If the style (the central structure of the flower that is 2-cleft at the tip) is shorter to about as long as the anthers (the pollen bearing formations of the stamens that surround the style), you have found it. The anthers will also be oblong and thus rounded on both ends (as opposed to lanceolate with a cleft base and pointed tip apex). Fortunately dried flowers persist on the fruits as they mature, making it possible to identify the species late into the season.
Santa Lucia Gooseberry
Ribes sericeum Eastwood. A, portions of stems, one with flowers and the other with a fruit; B, petal with margins spread out; C; petal with margins curled inward, as they appear in flower; D, flower; E, stamen; F, buds. Figure A is from Leroy Abrams' "Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States," vol. 2 (Stanford University Press); figures B to F accompanied the original description of the species (Eastwood 1902).
The earliest specimens of Ribes sericeum, from Post's Ranch and Slate's Hot Springs, were collected by Alice Eastwood in June of 1893. Eastwood, curator of botany at the California Academy of Sciences, must have failed to closely observe her own specimens, for it was not until Reason Plaskett sent her the type specimen that she recognized that a new species had been found (Eastwood 1902). Reason Alpha Plaskett, a carpenter and the father of at least six sons and four daughters, was one of the sons of William and Sarah Plaskett, who established a homestead at Gorda, on the Big Sur Coast, in 1869. The Plaskett family had hosted Alice Eastwood on her Santa Lucia Mountains expeditions of 1893 and 1897, and Reason Plaskett sent her a number of specimens of local plants in 1897 and 1898 (Cantelow & Cantelow 1957, Clark 1991, census of 1880).
Eastwood believed that plants represented by at least six of Plaskett's specimens warranted botanical recognition, two of which she named in honor of him: Nemophila plaskettii (= N. parviflora) and Linanthus plaskettii (= L. parviflorus) (Cantelow & Cantelow 1957). Only two of these taxa have stood the test of botanical scrutiny: Ribes sericeum and Ribes menziesii hystrix. One that didn't make it was Ribes sericeum var. viridescens, the type of which was collected by Plaskett at Gorda in January of 1898. Eastwood considered the specimen to be sufficiently different from the typical species because "the flowers are smaller and greenish, the leaves are more densely clothed with silky white hairs, and are more orbicular-reniform. The peduncles in the specimens examined all have single flowers" (Eastwood 1902). Mr. Plaskett collected the type specimen of Ribes sericeum along Spruce Creek in December of 1897. The specific name sericeum refers to the silky pubescence on the upper surface of the leaves.
Lanky shrubs with widely spreading branches ranging from about 1 to 2 m. (3.3-6.6') long. The branches and stems are densely covered with gland-tipped bristles, and are armed with stout thorns at the nodes (joints). The leaves are alternate or in alternate clusters, and the petioles are about 1 to 3.5 cm. long. The blades are about 1 to 4 cm. wide, roundish to broadly ovate in outline, cordate to truncate at the base, and cleft into three to five crenately margined lobes. The flowers are pendulous on one to three-flowered glandular-pubescent peduncles that are produced in the axils of the leaves. The corollas consist of five white and involute (inwardly curled) petals about 3 to 4 mm. long. The more conspicuous five-lobed calyx is a dark dull red or dark reddish-purple. The fruits are roundish and densely bristly berries about .8 to 2 (-4) cm. wide, which are dark purple to nearly black when fully mature. The flowers can appear as early as December, and the fruits mature from late spring to mid summer.
"Bixby Creek, 600 ft." S. N. Wyckoff #99 (JEPS), February 20, 1921.
"Rocky Creek" (tributary to Bixby Creek). Roxana Ferris #4070 (DS), April 26, 1924.
"Upper Carmel Valley about 2 miles northeast of Jamesburg, Hastings Natural History Reservation." Floyd Durham #212 (CAS), June 2, 1942.
"Northwest quarter of section 8, Hastings Natural History Reservation." Q. Tomich #313 (UC), January 5, 1951, and #321 (CAS), January 8, 1951.
"Arnold place, Hastings Natural History Reservation." Q. Tomich #385 (CAS), January 6, 1951.
"Jamesburg below Lambert's place." Frederick Coville and Rimo Bacigalupi #107 (DS), April 10, 1925.
"Just below first brook crossing below Jamesburg." Frederick Coville and Rimo Bacigalupi #112 (DS), April 10, 1925.
"Slope above Foster place [now the Jamesburg stand and the Tassajara reservation office], Jamesburg P. O., alt. 2000 ft." Frederick Coville and Rimo Bacigalupi #135 & 136 (DS), April 12, 1925.
"Little Sur." Joseph Burtt Davy #7378 (cited in Jepson, 1936), May 1901.
"Big Sur." Alice Eastwood and John T. Howell #6014 (CAS), June 15, 1939.
"From a transplant collected near redwoods at Big Sur." Clarence Quick (CAS), March 20, 1940.
"Along Big Sur River at Pfeiffer Redwoods Park." G. Ledyard Stebbins, Jr. #1522 (UC), March 10, 1936.
"Big Sur River, 200 ft." S. N. Wyckoff #100 (CAS), February 21, 1921.
"Post's." Alice Eastwood (CAS), June 14, 1893.
"At Post's ranch." Freed Hoffman #1292 (UC), January 3, 1947.
"Willow Creek" (tributary of Tassajara Cr.). William Dudley (DS), June 30, 1901.
"On Willow Creek" (tributary of Tassajara Cr.). A. D. E. Elmer #3199 (DS), June 1901.
"Willow Creek [tributary of Tassajara Cr.], T19S R4E, el. 2000 ft." R. St. John VTM #1951 (UC), September 18, 1929.
"Willow Creek [tributary of Tassajara Cr.] at Willow Springs Camp." David Rogers #115 (CAS), April 29, 1988.
"Slates Hot Springs." Alice Eastwood (CAS), June 14, 1893.
"Big Creek." Katherine Brandegee (cited in Jepson, 1936), June 1909.
"San Antonio Creek above Avila ranch, alt. 2000 ft." C. B. Duncan (CAS), March 29, 1920.
"Upper San Antonio Canyon , alt. 2000 ft." Roxana Ferris #3640 (DS), April 14, 1923.
"Road from Jolon to sea, alt. 2600-2700 ft." Clare Hardham #5228 (CAS), March 26, 1960.
"Headwaters of Nacimiento River, along road across Santa Lucia Range, just below Carrals Spring, el. 2500 ft." Rimo Bacigalupi #7573 (JEPS), March 22, 1961.
"Pine woods above Willow Creek on Gorda trail, alt. 2000 ft." Roxana Ferris #7863 (DS), March 22, 1927.
"Gorda." Reason A. Plaskett (UC), December 1897.
"Gorda." Reason A. Plaskett (CAS, type of var. viridescens), January 1898.
"Spruce Creek." Reason A. Plaskett (CAS, type), December 1897.
San Luis Obispo County
"Coast just south of Monterey County line, near stream." Robert Hoover #6673 (CAS), March 16, 1947.
"Trail up Pine Mt." E. G. Dudley (CAS), February 26, 1908.
"Near Doty's, south side of Hearst Ranch." William R. Dudley (DS), March 2, 1902.
"Near Coy's place, San Luis Obispo County." William R. Dudley (DS), January 5, 1905.
"Spring at head of Franklin Creek." William R. Dudley (DS), January 5, 1905.
"Santa Rosa Creek." Clare Hardham #54 (CAS), February 24, 1956.
"Along Santa Rosa Creek, nine miles east of Cambria." Clare Hardham #5207 (CAS), February 25, 1960.
"Cambria." Robert Hoover #6579 (CAS), January 3, 1947.
"Upper Morro Creek, near stream." Robert Hoover #6571 (CAS), December 14, 1946.
"Road to Atascadero six miles east of Morro Bay." Roxana Ferris #7682 (DS), April 16, 1929.
"Santa Margarita." N. K. Berg (UC), May 3, 1904.
"On Cuesta Grade six miles east of San Luis Obispo." Frederick Coville and Rimo Bacigalupi #154 (DS), April 14, 1925.
"Lopez Canyon, in shady places in canyon bottom." Robert Hoover #8387 (CAS), May 3, 1959.
I must note that the listing of Ribes sericeum in Clifton Smith's "A Flora of the Santa Barbara Region" (1976) is based on a specimen in the herbarium of the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden (#B 2723 SBBG), a duplicate of which is on file at the California Academy of Sciences. The specimen, which represents a plant with only partially mature flowers, was collected by E. R. Blakeley and others on the "north slope of Zaca Peak, Figueroa Mountain, San Rafael Mountains" on March 31, 1959, and was determined to be R. sericeum by Philip Munz on April 4, 1960. Munz must have been having an off day, for at a glance it can be seen that the specimen lacks any internodal bristles, which are dense in R. sericeum. On closer observation it can also be seen that the specimen is not glandular, the styles exceed the anthers, and the anthers are lanceolate (as opposed to oblong). The specimen probably represents Ribes roezlii.
Ribes roezlii Regel
As implied by its name, this is a montane species that is common in the higher mountains of the California Floristic Province. It ranges from southwestern Oregon to Napa and Sonoma counties in the North Coast Ranges, and through the Sierra Nevada, with disjunct populations in the Santa Lucia, Transverse, and Peninsular Ranges (its most southern location is in San Diego County. The nearest populations to those in the Santa Lucia Mountains are in the San Rafael Mountains of Santa Barbara County. In 1879 Eduard von Regel, director of the botanical garden of St. Petersburg, named this species for Benito Roezl, who collected the seeds (probably in the Sierra Nevada) from which the type specimen was cultivated (Jepson 1936, Munz 1959).
Ribes roezlii can be distinguished from the other gooseberries of the Santa Lucia Mountains fairly easily. If a plant has thorns only at the nodes (joints), its leaves do not have sticky glands on the lower surface, and the hypanthium (the portion of the floral tube between the ovary and sepals) is longer than wide, you have found it.
Ribes roezlii in fruit. Photograph by Charles Webber.
Ribes roezlii in flower. Photograph by Brother Alfred Brousseau.
Lanky deciduous shrubs with branches ranging from about 5 to 12 dm (20-48") long, which are armed with one to three straight thorns at the nodes (joints). The leaves are alternate or in alternate clusters; the petioles are about .5 to 3 cm. long, while the blades are ovate to roundish in outline, about .5 to 2.5 cm wide, and cleft into three to five crenately margined lobes. The flowers are pendulous on one to three-flowered peduncles that are produced in the axils of the leaves. The reflexed sepals are red or purplish-red, and the five white petals, which have inwardly curled margins, are about 3 to 5 mm. long. The fruit is a bristly red to purple berry about 1.5 cm. wide.
"By the road, on a northward slope a quarter mile north of summit of the Carmel-Tassajara Road, alt. 4800 ft." Frederick Coville #242 (CAS), May 2, 1925.
"Tassajara Road, 4960 alt." William Dudley (DS), June 10, 1901.
"From a moist bank along Tassajara Road near the Chew's Ridge summit, 4790 ft. elevation." David Rogers #383 (UC), May 5, 1993.
"Bracken swale, Chews Ridge." James Griffin #3275 (CAS), August 29, 1972.
"Summit of road between Jamesburg and Tassajara Springs, alt. 4800 ft." Frederick Coville & Rimo Bacigalupi #133 (DS), April 12, 1925.
"Road between look out and cattle guard, Chews Ridge." James Griffin #3210 (CAS), June 17, 1972.
"Chews Ridge." Clare Hardham #6200 (CAS), June 21, 1960.
"Summit, Chews Ridge." James Griffin #3202 (CAS), June 17, 1972.
"Chew's Ridge, just south of main summit." James Griffin #3647 (JEPS), June 15, 1973.
"Pine Ridge Trail, 1 mile west of China Camp, 4400 elev." Ferdinand Haasis #90.59 (CAS), May 23, 1959.
"Above China Camp to summit, Pine Ridge Trail." Vern Yadon (PG), May 14, 1981.
"Pine Ridge Trail about .25 mile west of Tassajara Road." David Rogers #274 (CAS), April 2, 1992.
Pine Ridge (personal observation).
"Santa Lucia [Junipero Serra] Peak." Mary Strong Clemens (CAS), October 3, 1921.
"Junipero Serra Peak." Clare Hardham #10427 (CAS), June 30, 1962.
"Junipero Serra Peak, 4500' +." James Griffin #3226a (CAS), June 30, 1972.
San Luis Obispo County
"Hearst's Castle." W. A. Setchell and C. C. Dobie (UC), July 1902.
Ribes menziesii Pursh var. hystrix (Eastwood) Jepson [R. h. Eastwood]
For many years Porcupine Gooseberry was thought to be endemic to the Big Sur Coast, but it has also been found on the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County, and is fairly common in the San Luis Range west-southwest of San Luis Obispo (which is separated from the Santa Lucia Mountains by the Los Osos Valley).
Ribes menziesii hystrix is one of a number of named entities of the R. menziesii complex, within which Jepson (1936) recognized nine varieties. Variety hystrix is distinguished by its large yellow thorns, its densely spiny stems, its thinner leaves, and its petals that are about as long as the filaments (instead of much shorter than the filaments). These characteristics, however, are not always consistent. The name hystrix, porcupine-like or bristly, refers to the very well armed stems.
Like that of Ribes sericeum, the type specimen of R. menziesii hystrix was one of a number of specimens Reason Plaskett sent to Alice Eastwood in 1897 and 1898. The type specimen of the later, which had flowers but not fruits, was collected at Gorda in January of 1898. Eastwood had previously collected specimens with fruits at Pacific Valley while on her expeditions to the Santa Lucia Mountains in June of 1893 and May of 1897 (Eastwood 1902, Cantelow & Cantelow 1957). According to Jepson (1936), David Douglas was the first person to collect a specimen of this taxon, which he found at Point Lobos in 1831.
Ribes menziesii Pursh var. hystrix (Eastwood) Jepson. A, portion of a stem with flowers; B, petal; C, stamen; D, flower and bud; E, fruit. Figures A and E are from Leroy Abrams' "Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States," vol. 2 (Stanford University Press); figures B to D accompanied the original description of the species (Eastwood 1902).
Loosely branched shrubs ranging from about 1 to 2 (-3) meters (3-9 ft.) tall. The spreading branches and stems have long and stout yellow thorns at the nodes, and are further armed with a dense growth of sharp spines along the entire length of the stems. Some plants even develop two horizontal rows of yellow tipped thorns. The leaves are alternate or in alternate clusters, and the blades are about 1.5 to 4 cm. wide, roundish to ovate in outline, and divided into three to five crenately margined lobes. The flowers are pendulous on one to three-flowered glandular peduncles that are produced in the axils of the leaves, and the calyx and reflexed sepals are reddish purple. The five small and inwardly curled petals, which are about as long as the filaments, are white. The fruit is a bristly berry about 1 cm. wide.
"Wooded slope, near Shell Beach on Tomales Bay." Beryl Schreiber #2103 (UC), February 1, 1936.
"From transplant #156, collected at Carmel." Clarence Quick (CAS), February 1931.
"Point Lobos State Park." Herbert Mason & Edward Lee #9089 (CAS, UC), February 10, 1935.
"Point Lobos in pine woods." R. L. Pendleton #518 (JEPS), December 30, 1906.
"Point Lobos." Alice Eastwood & John T. Howell #6032 (CAS), January 16, 1938.
"Between Point Lobos and Ocean Home." Alice D. Randall (CAS), April 17, 1910.
"Deep canyon just south of Carmel Highlands." Herbert Mason #5037 (UC), March 2, 1929.
"Palo Colorado Canyon." S. N. Wycoff (CAS), February 19, 1920.
"Palo Colorado Canyon." Robert Hoover #5252 (UC), May 25, 1941.
"Palo Colorado Canyon." Roxana Ferris & Rimo Bacigalupi #3686 (CAS), April 22, 1922.
"Palo Colorado Canyon." Helen Lind (PG), March 1971.
"Palo Colorado Canyon." Frederick Coville #86 (CAS), April 6, 1925.
"Torre Ravine, Coast Trail." William Dudley (CAS), August 5, 1903.
"Shaded slope in draw north of Gamboa Point, Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve." Cathy Genetti & Eric Engles #49 (CAS), January 31, 1982.
"Above highway one near Limekiln Creek." Beatrice Howitt #917 (CAS), May 6, 1956.
"Slope north of Limekiln Creek." Ernest Twisselmann #10415 (CAS), December 3, 1962.
"Limekiln Creek." Katherine Brandegee (UC), June 12, 1909.
"Limekiln Creek." Willis Jepson #1681 (cited in Jepson 1936).
"Redwoods near coast, Jolon to coast road." Clare Hardham #4077 (CAS), March 27, 1959.
"Gorda." Reason Plaskett (CAS, type), December 1897.
"Near Gorda." Katherine Brandegee (UC), June 11, 1909.
San Luis Obispo County
"Arroyo de la Cruz." Clare Hardham #4048 (CAS, UC), March 14, 1959.
"Swamp Canyon near ocean, Cambria." Clare Hardham #5208 (UC), February 25, 1960.
"Ozo Valley." Robert Hoover #6603 (CAS), January 26, 1947.
"2.25 south of mouth of Osos Creek" (San Luis Range). B. Bolt #606 (UC), March 11, 1936.
"Clark Valley" (San Luis Range). C. M. Belshaw #1721 (UC), March 25, 1936.
"Four miles southeast of mouth of Osos Creek" (San Luis Range). B. Bolt #637 (UC), March 18, 1936.
"Islay Creek" (San Luis Range). Specimen of California Polytechnic School (UC), 1906.
"Diablo Canyon, San Luis Range." Robert Hoover #10222 (CAS, UC), February 18, 1967.
"Peltes Canyon, San Luis Range." Alice Eastwood & John T. Howell #4183 (CAS), May 1, 1937.
Other Ribes of the Santa Lucia Mountains
In addition to the taxa described above, other representatives of the genus Ribes in the Santa Lucia Mountains include:
R. amarum (Bitter Gooseberry)
R. aureum var. gracillimum (Golden Currant)
R. californicum (Hillside Gooseberry)
R. divaricatum var. pubiflorum (Stragling Gooseberry)
R. malvaceum (Chaparral Currant)
R. menziesii menziesii (Canyon Gooseberry)
R. quercetorum (Oak Gooseberry)
R. sanguineum var. glutinosum (Pink Flowered Currant)
R. speciosum (Fuchsia Flowed Gooseberry)
A Key to the Ribes of the Santa Lucia Mountains
1a. Plants without thorns, spines or stiff bristles. Flowers produced
many flowered racemes. Fruits glabrous (bald) or glandular pubescent,
but not bristly or spiny (currants):
2a. Flowers yellow, turning red with age. Leaves generally wider in the
outer half... R. aureum.
2b. Flowers white or pink. Leaves generally widest around the middle
or lower half:
3a. Leaves densely hairy. Styles hairy... R. malvaceum.
3b. Leaves sparsely hairy. Styles glabrous... R. sanguineum.
1b. Plants with one or more thorns at the nodes (joints), at least
on older stems, and often with bristles or thorny spines between
the nodes. Flowers singular or in loose clusters of four or fewer
flowers. Fruits with or without bristles or spines (Gooseberries):
4a. Sepals four, calyx bright red, petals red; stamens two to three
times longer than flowers... R. speciosa.
4b. Sepals five, dull or dullish red, purple or green, petals white
or cream; stamens not more than twice as long as the flowers:
5a. Stems thorny only at the nodes or with remotely scattered
spines between the nodes, but not densely bristly:
6a. Fruits glabrous:
7a. Leaves 2 to 6 cm. wide. Sepals green or purplish and about
5-7 mm. long. Anthers exserted beyond the petals...
7b. Leaves 1 to 2 cm. wide. Sepals yellow and about 3 mm. long.
Anthers not exserted beyond the petals... R. quercetorum.
6b. Fruits bristly or spiny:
8a. Leaves 2 to -4 cm wide and glandular on lower surface
(magnification may be necessary)... R. amarum
8b. Leaves 1 to 3 cm. wide and not glandular:
9a. Hypanthium (the portion of the floral tube between the
ovary and sepals) about as long as wide. Fruits 9 to 10
mm wide... R. californicum.
9b. Hypanthium longer than wide. Fruits 14 to 16 mm. wide...
5b. Stems densely bristly or spiny throughout:
10a. Anthers oblong, rounded on both ends; styles shorter to
about as long as anthers... R. sericeum.
10b. Anthers lanceolate, cleft at the base and acute at the
apex; styles longer than anthers:
11a. Stems densely bristly but not spiny. Nodal thorns generally
brown. Leaves rather thick. Petals much shorter than the
filaments... R. menziesii menzieii.
11b. Stems very densely spiny (often thorny) throughout. Nodal
thorns yellow and very large and stout. Leaves rather thin.
Petals about as long as filaments...R. menziesii hystrix.
Bitter Gooseberry (R. amarum)
Straggling Gooseberry (R. divaricatum)
Golden Currant (R. aureum gracillimum). Photograph by Charles Webber.
Hillside Gooseberry (R. californicum). Photograph by Charles Webber.
Chaparral Currant (R. malvaceum). Photograph by Charles Webber.
Canyon Gooseberry (R. menziesii menziesii). Photograph by Beatrice Howitt.
Oak Gooseberry (R. quercetorum). Photograph by Brother Alfred Brousseau.
Pink Flowered Currant (R. sanguineum glutinosum). Photograph by Walter Knight.
Abrams, Leroy. 1944. Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States, vol. 2. Stanford University Press.
Cantelow, Ella, and Herbert Cantelow. 1957. Biographical Notes on Persons in whose Honor Alice Eastwood Named Native Plants. Leaflets of Western Botany 8 (5): 83-101.
Eastwood, Alice. 1902. Some New Species of Pacific Coast Ribes. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, third series, Botany, vol. 2 (7) 241-255.
Hoover, Robert. 1970. The Vascular Plants of San Luis Obispo County. University of California Press.
Jepson, Willis Linn. 1936. Ribes in A Flora of California, vol. 2. Associated Students Store, University of California, Berkeley.
Matthews, Mary Ann. 1997. An Illustrated Field Key to the Flowering Plants of Monterey County. California Native Plant Society, Sacramento.
Mesler, Michael, and John Sawyer, Jr. Grossulariaceae in The Jespon Manual, Higher Plants of California. University of California Press.
Munz, Phillip. 1959. A California Flora. University of California Press.
Smith, Clifton F. 1976. A Flora of the Santa Barbara Region, California. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, CA.