Garden, Side Projects

Forbidden Fruit 2: State by State Legality of Gooseberry and Currant Berry (Laws regarding plants in the Ribes genus)

Since I have been unable to locate a full and recent list of state legality regarding plants of the Ribes genus, I compiled my own comprehensive list. Like the laws themselves, this list is dynamic so please contact me if any of the information here is out of date. Please check with your local extension office for confirmation before getting involved with the Ribes genus in any regard.

Summarized: Ribes plants really are forbidden fruit to some people. Residents of New Hampshire, North Carolina and West Virginia are completely out of luck as those states enforce a statewide ban on all Ribes species. Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island enforce a permit system. Most other states ban Ribes cultivars that are not resistant to the White Pine Blister Rust (WPBR) pathogen but below is the complete breakdown.

All the sources provided are from state legislature, extension offices or state universities.

State:
Alabama

Alaska

  • No Restrictions Found

Arizona

  • No Restrictions Found

Arkansas

  • No Restrictions Found

California

  • No Restrictions Found

Colorado

  • No Restrictions Found

Connecticut

Delaware

Florida

  • No Restrictions Found

Georgia

  • No Restrictions Found

Hawaii

  • No Restrictions Found

Idaho

  • No Restrictions Found

Illinois

  • No Restrictions Found

Indiana

  • No Restrictions Found

Iowa

  • No Restrictions Found

Kansas

  • No Restrictions Found

Kentucky

  • No Restrictions Found

Louisiana

  • No Restrictions Found

Maine

  • “European Black Currant, Ribes nigrum prohibited state-wide
    The sale, transportation, further planting or possession of plants of the genus Ribes (commonly) known as currant and gooseberry plants, including cultivated, wild, or ornamental sorts is prohibited in the following Counties in the State of Maine, to wit: York, Cumberland, Androscoggin, Kennebec, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, Waldo, Hancock, and parts of Oxford, Franklin, Somerset, Piscataquis, Penobscot, Aroostook, and Washington”
  • http://www.maine.gov/dacf/mfs/forest_health/quarantine_information.html

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

  • No Restrictions Found

Mississippi

  • No Restrictions Found

Missouri

  • No Restrictions Found

Montana

  • No Restrictions Found

Nebraska

  • No Restrictions Found

Nevada

  • No Restrictions Found

New Hampshire

New Jersey

  • 2. The possession or movement of plant cultivars and hybrids of European Black Currant (Ribes nigrum L.) into or within New Jersey is only allowed under special permit issued by the Department.
  • 3. The possession or movement of red currant and gooseberry plants (Ribes sp. and Grossularia sp.) is allowed into or within New Jersey except the following municipalities, constituting a protective area: Montague, Sandyston, Walpack and Vernon Townships in Sussex County; West Milford, Ringwood Borough and Wanaque Township in Passaic County, and Jefferson Township in Morris County.
  • 4. Currant plants and gooseberry plants other than the European Black Currant (Ribes nigrum L.) may be moved into and within all other points in New Jersey by complying with the general requirements of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture for the movement of nursery stock (N.J.S.A. 4:7-16 et seq.).
  • http://www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/pi/prog/plantpest.html

New Mexico

  • No Restrictions Found

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

  • No Restrictions Found

Ohio

  • The current Ohio law (Regulation AG-71-85.01) to
    suppress and control White Pine Blister Rust Disease is
    as follows:
  • (A) The European black currant, Ribes nigrum L. or any
    variety of this species is hereby declared to be a public
    nuisance, and it shall be unlawful for any person to
    possess, transport, plant, propagate, sell, or offer for
    sale, plants, roots, scions, seeds, or cuttings of these
    plants in this state.
  • (B) Recognized varieties, e.g., “Consort” produced by the
    hybridization of Ribes nigrum L. or a variety thereof
    with a resistant or immune species, known to be immune
    or highly resistant to the White Pine Blister Rust
    fungus, (Cronartium ribicola, Fischer) are exempt from
    the restrictions imposed by paragraph (A) above.
    Note: Ohio law does not prohibit the planting of red
    currants or gooseberries within the state.
  • http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/3000/pdf/3205.pdf

Oklahoma

  • No Restrictions Found

Oregon

  • No Restrictions Found

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

  • No Restrictions Found

South Dakota

  • No Restrictions Found

Tennessee

  • No Restrictions Found

Texas

  • No Restrictions Found

Utah

  • No Restrictions Found

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

  • No Restrictions Found

West Virginia

Wisconsin

  • No Restrictions Found

Wyoming

  • No Restrictions Found
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Garden, Side Projects, Uncategorized

Forbidden Fruit, the interesting story of the currant and pine trees (Ribes genus)

At 22 years old, I first heard of this family of fruits. Geography of Wine actually fulfilled one of my core elective requirements for my degree. Ever the most eccentric of professors, John Boyer recommended we throw a wine tasting party as an assignment fulfillment but the catch was to include everything you may encounter in wine, from various fruits to dirty gym socks to barnyard hay. Preparation to identify even the worst and erroneously produced flavors of wine was weighted equally to the pleasurable and inviting flavors. My quest to track down all of the fruit flavors was an adventure in itself. Unripe persimmons from my now-farm-site were used to demonstrate astringency and tannins but it was the Currants that proved most difficult to find. I was able to order red, white and rose currants online but black currants despite being an oft cited flavor in wine profiles were nearly impossible to find. Natural curiosity begged the question: why? Illegality was the first curious attribute of these fruits that was encountered. Were they psychoactive or invasive or any of the things that would lead to a federal ban?

Pinus strobus, the eastern white pine was once found extensively from northern Georgia to northeastern Canada. Europeans recognized the lightweight, tall, straight growth as forming ideal ship masts (source: Dendrology lecture with Dr. Seiler at Virginia Tech). Continued recognition as an ideal timber species led to Europeans shipping pine specimens to be grown in european nurseries (source) while continued harvest of native stands caused massive deforestation by the late 1800’s (source). Consequently, specimens were shipped backed to re-establish stands in the depleted native habitat.

Specifically, Lord Weymouth was a prolific gardener and arranged for the importation of white pines into Europe in 1705. By affixing “Lord” to “Weymouth Pine”, he subsequently stole the common name from the first european to discover the pine in current-day Maine, George Weymouth. A shipment from France to British Columbia in 1910 brought a fungal pathogen to North America that went undetected for 11 years allowing it to spread extensively (source). White pine blister rust, the fungus (Cronartium ribicola) had first appeared in Germany (Source). Further investigation revealed that the Ribes genus of gooseberries (thorned) and currants (not thorned) provided a host for the fungus to complete its lifecycle. The resulting native Ribes removal cost an estimated $150 million shown below:

Three-man crew eradicating Ribes in northern Idaho. (Courtesy U.S. Forest Service, copyright-free) Retrieved from http://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/intropp/lessons/fungi/Basidiomycetes/Pages/WhitePine.aspx

Thus the North American shortage of currants is adequately explained.

While the federal ban was lifted in 1966, many state bans are still in effect to various degrees of enforcement. Here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the state enforces the ban by preventing nursery sales of natural strains of black currants. Hybrid black currants and all other colors are perfectly legal. Check on your state regulations regarding the issue. No complete state guide exists currently so I will compile one as time allows as a reference.

As the case with any prohibition laws, the government has created a market that is both ripe and untapped. Europe has a billion dollar industry in yogurt, jams/jellies/preserves, liquor, teas, smoothies and any other use for berries that can be filled by the unique flavor of currants. While the American market is ramping up and in its infancy, currants seem to fit the bill for obscure, nutritionally packed and strangely flavored to become the next rage in the health food industry. As such I hope to have a few plants established if currants do become the next rage as they take 3 years to produce substantially. Boundaries in the garden will be the starting point as they are a fantastic plant to grow along fence rows and can thrive in afternoon shade!

 

 

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