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Golden currant is a non-spiny, deciduous shrub in the gooseberry family that grows 6 to 9 feet tall with clusters of spicy-scented flowers and leathery, maple-like leaves. The erect, arching branches of this plant form a rounded or open-and-irregular shape.  It grows in a variety of moist soils, including poor and clay, and spreads via rhizomes and also by adding new stems at the base.  Once established, it’s tolerant of drought, standing water, salt, and high winds.  It’s high in wildlife value and is often used as a windbreak and in conservation projects. 


The flowers are golden yellow at first, turning orangish to violet with age. Blooming in late March or early April, golden currant is one of the first signs of spring in some parts of the country and provides nectar to hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Fruit follows if a male plant is available to pollinate the female plants. In mid-summer, drooping clusters of orangish fruits give off a scent reminiscent of vanilla or cloves (another common name is clove currant). The ripened fruits, which are amber to bluish black, are tart, but edible. Most often they are cooked with added sugar to make jams, pies, and jellies.  Another common name, buffalo currant, came about because the berries were an important food source for the Plains Indians.  They ate the bluish-black fruits fresh or dried and mixed with dried buffalo meat or venison to make pemmican.  


Many Ribes species are alternate hosts for the fungus that causes white pine blister rust in five-needled or white pines; for this reason, they were banned from some states for several decades.


Native habitats include roadside ditches, fencerows, drier hillsides, meadows, river valleys, and stream banks. These shrubs are ideal for use in natural landscaping projects, along stream banks, at the bottom of slopes, in woodland gardens, and as informal hedges.


Plant Characteristics:

Grows 6-9’ tall and 6-12’ wide.


Prefers full sun but appreciates afternoon shade in hotter areas.  Flower production will decrease in too much shade.


Prefers moist, well-drained soils but tolerates clay, some dryness, and alkaline soils. For best results, provide consistent moisture.


Flowers have 5 yellow, petal-like sepals fanned around erect, yellow-to-red petals that alternate with 5 stamens to form a tubular structure.  They give way to large, shiny, black currants in summer.


Leaves are mostly 3 lobed, blue-green, and somewhat leathery. Each lobe is either entire, toothed, or further lobed. The leaves change to yellow or reddish yellow and purple tinged in fall. 


The reddish bark turns gray with age.  Stems tend to be shorter and more erect in sunnier spots and more wand-like in shade.


Wildlife Value:

The berries are consumed by many birds and mammals, including robins, catbirds, thrashers, cedar waxwings, mockingbirds, jays, towhees, red foxes, raccoons, skunks, chipmunks, squirrels, and white-footed mice.  The foliage and stems are lightly browsed by deer, and the shrubs provide essential groundcover for nesting birds and mammals.


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

Golden currant tea is used to treat mild gastric irritation, diarrhea, and inflamed urinary tracts.


The flowers and fruits are edible, and the fruits are high in vitamin C and antioxidants.  


Currant, Golden, Ribes aureum

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  • We happily purchase or trade other plant material for locally gathered native seeds. Please provide pictures of the mature plant if possible, ideally fruiting or flowering for best ID.

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