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I have many gooseberries and currants plus some jostaberries that we just put in this year. Mostly, once they got established, they’ve fruited well. With one exception. We have one gooseberry that has grown to about 4 times the size of any other. It sends up suckers and spreads like crazy. It also flowers like crazy, and the bees are all over it. But it never actually sets any fruit. Is there such a thing as a male gooseberry? Or an ornamental gooseberry? Unfortunately I don’t know what variety it is…

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  • I think it really depends on the age of the tree. Much like blueberry bushes, they won't start producing fruit until they are at least 2 - 3 years old May 13, 2022 at 3:32
  • It’s about 5 or 6 years old now. It was put in at the same time as most of the others which are all much smaller, but fruit heavily. May 14, 2022 at 1:55

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There are a number of species that can be sold or passed on under the name gooseberry - even if we exclude ones like cape gooseberry that aren't related to the regular garden gooseberry, Ribes uva-crispa. Generally these are in the sub-family Grossulariaceae. With the size and spreading habit, yours could be Ribes divaricatum, the worcesterberry or spreading, straggly or coast black gooseberry. This is a parent of the jostaberry but is also sometimes sold or passed on in its own right. There is also Ribes speciosum, the fuchsia-flowered gooseberry, which is indeed grown as an ornamental gooseberry. Both of these usually set fruit, but they can be much smaller than that of garden varieties. It might also be a wild or feral R. uva-crispa. I have noticed in the UK that wild-growing gooseberries mostly reproduce by layering and some seem to lose the ability to produce fruit.

There are also several possibilities as to why it is not setting fruit. This can be due to disease problems such as mildew but you haven't mentioned any. Ribes are usually self-fertile so pollination is unlikely to be the cause. Poor growing conditions such as drought, or too much or too little light, or nutrient deficiencies can cause lack of fruiting. This seems unlikely to be the case if your others are doing well, although if it is a different species it may have different requirements from the others.

Also, it may simply be a non-fruiting clone. The ease of rooting Ribes from cuttings mean that these can be propagated as easily as fruiting ones. Obviously it isn't usually done because they are not wanted, but gooseberries are sometimes grown for other uses such as screening or as prickly anti-burglar plants, so it isn't impossible. Any plant line propagated for too long by asexual reproduction tends to lose fertility as it builds up mutations and/or viruses.

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