Gooseberry – Ribes uva-crispa – was collected for the Darwin Tree of Life project by Dr Markus Ruhsam in Roslin Glen on the 30th April 2023.
With a history of cultivation in Britain dating back to the 13th century, the native status of the gooseberry is a little uncertain, and wild and naturalised plants are hard to distinguish. In the 19th century, gooseberries were such a popular fruit that gooseberry clubs formed, where people competed to grow the heaviest fruit.
The fruits of gooseberries Captivator, Hinnonmaki and Invicta; image from Suttons Seeds
However in 1905 the American gooseberry mildew, Podosphaera mors-uvae, spread through Europe, decimating native gooseberries. Resistance to the mildew was bred into cultivars by crossing European gooseberries with smaller-fruited American gooseberries, albeit with reported reduction in fruit size and flavour.
The selection pressure from this imported mildew favours resistant gooseberry genotypes, providing an advantage for some of these newer cultivars spreading into the wild over the original British plants. The genome of the gooseberry plant that we have sampled can be used by researchers to investigate genetic signals from this historic disease outbreak.