The genus Ribes contains the currants and gooseberries. Garden Currant is an erect perennial, mostly without hair and without prickles on the stems and internodes.
The leaves are somewhat circular in shape, toothed, alternate and with 3 to 7 lobes, but mostly 5. These lobes have coarse teeth and a pointed tip. The leaf base varies from truncate to heart-shaped. Leaf surfaces do not have glands.
The inflorescence is an ascending to pendent raceme of evenly spaced flowers, 8 to 20 in number, which are also without glands. These racemes arise from the leaf axils.
The flowers are small, usually yellowish-green, with the hypanthium saucer shaped, the sepals are green to greenish-brown, nearly overlapping and spreading with the rounded tip curled back. R. rubrum flowers lack the elongated tube-like structure the the American Black Currant (R. americanum). The petals are cream to pinkish colored and somewhat hidden by the larger sepals. They are erect around a green nectar disc that is on top of the smooth ovary. The five stamens are about as long as the petals and have dumbbell shaped white to yellowish anthers. The two styles are no longer than the stamens. Flower stalks are jointed (part remains after the fruit drops).
Fruit: The edible fruit of R. rubrum as "rubrum" indicates, is red and appears by mid-July in a normal weather year and the plants can bear fruit into early Autumn. Currant jelly is most tasty. The fruit clusters are always pendent.
Habitat: Red Garden Currant grows best in rich soil, full sun, moist to mesic conditions. In the wild it may be found in disturbed woods, thickets, pathway edges, and old abandoned homesites.
Names: The genus Ribes is derived from the Syrian or Persian word ribas which means 'acid tasting'. The species rubrum is Latin for 'red'. The author name for the plant classification - 'L.' is for Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy.
Comparisons: The American Black Current, Ribes americanum Mill., has similar leaves, but with yellow glands and the flower shape is different - much more tubular.
Above: The hanging flower racemes descend from the leaf axils. The leaves are both toothed and lobed.
Below: Ripe fruit of Garden Currant - typically by mid July at the latest.
Below: 1st photo - The small yellowish-green 5-part flowers. 2nd photo - - The shape of younger leaves near the top of the plant.
Notes: Garden Currant was not listed on Martha Crone's 1951 Garden Census and has arrived since. The plant is not native to North America. It has either been introduced or has escaped into the wild. It has been found in most of the northern states from coast to coast and the lower Canadian Provinces. Outside of cultivation, in Minnesota the plant has only been found in five counties - Hennepin, Stearns, Anoka, Ramsey and Rice - all notably near population centers where it would have escaped. In general one must be careful where Ribes are planted as these plants are the alternate host of the white pine blister rust, Cronartium ribicola.
There are 10 species of Ribes found in Minnesota in addition to the cultivated Red Currant Ribes rubrum.
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"