Legalities of Growing Currants and Gooseberries

There is a funny thing about the growing of currants and gooseberries (also referred to as Ribes)…I first realized that something was odd, when we moved to the US from Germany, and tried to buys these berry bushes without success.  (that was in the 80’s)… turns out that in the early 1900s, the federal and state governments outlawed the growing of currants and gooseberries to prevent the spread of white pine blister rust.  Although the federal ban was rescinded in 1966, some northern states still prohibit the planting or cultivation of black currants. For example, New York state did not legalize the growing of Ribes until 2003.

According to Penn State’s College of Agriculture, Pennsylvania passed a law in 1933 that limited growing gooseberries and currants in certain areas; however, the law is not enforced. Therefore, all Ribes can be grown in the state.

The ban was established because gooseberries and currants can serve as alternate hosts to white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola), a fungus that needs both Ribes and white pine to complete its life cycle.  So if you have white pine nearby,  you may want to consider growing less-susceptible types of Ribes. Black currant (Ribes nigrum) is by far the most susceptible, and for this reason many areas outside of Pennsylvania still prohibit growing it. Resistant black currant varieties are available. Red and white currants are less susceptible, and gooseberry is the least susceptible.
(information from PSU and Cornell)