It has glossy, dark green leaves about 1 1/2 inches wide (4 cm) that look a bit like leaves from maple trees. It produces small pinkish flowers and then clusters of 7 to 15 dark purple berries each about 1/5 inch (5 mm) wide. The berries have soft hairs on them.
The berries have an unpleasant odour when first crushed. Some find the fruit edible, pronouncing it juicy and tart, suitable for being cooked up as a sauce or made into a preserve. Others say you could only think it was edible if your taste buds had been afflicted by an unfortunate childhood accident.
Black gooseberries are native to North America as far south as Massachusetts and California.
The Montagnais Indians called the berry “cohosh”.
In the scientific name, “Ribes lacustre”, “lacustre” means “growing by lakes”.